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CAA designates area for unmanned flight
For the first time an area in the UK has been designated solely for UAS flight by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) at West Wales Airport in Aberporth.
The airspace change proposal (ACP) was announced on 15 June under sponsorship from the Welsh government, and is expected to be operational as of 28 July.
The government worked with the CAA on the effort, and QinetiQ was contracted to provide technical advice on the application of the ACP. It also manages the MoD’s ParcAberporth Unmanned Aircraft facility, and in turn can manage the airspace if needed.
The airport’s managing director, Ray Mann, told Shephard that he felt the project had the backing of the government, as it sees unmanned flight as a growth business and as a more economical choice, with the decision having been thought through carefully.
‘We’re looking at any customers. All UAS operators will be able to use this airspace, and in principle it serves both civil and military,’ Mann said.
‘We’ve been pressing for a particular airspace for some time. I think it’s huge.’
Mann said he feels this is beneficial for the UK, not just Wales, but did not envisage the size of the airspace altering in the future, saying that it has enough flexibility to deal with almost any type of flight and system.
‘Nobody wants to restrict airspace, but this is a necessity. It is as flexible as can be,’ he pointed out.
Mann said that this opens up new avenues for civil unmanned flight, which before has seen difficulties: ‘While many systems are military, civilian systems are restricted’.
The airspace is designated as a danger zone by the CAA, and the discussions behind this new ACP started some three to four years ago, according to Mann.
The airspace will be subject to safety requirements imposed and regulated by the CAA and the Military Aviation Authority, and unmanned flight will only be activated in the new airspace when scheduled.
The airport has a 1,200m runway and is in a ‘leading position’ in unmanned flight due to its licensing by the CAA, and is home to the MoD’s Watchkeeper UAS that is undergoing test and evaluation before entering service with the British Army.
The sanctioned airspace will be centred at the airport, and will extend inland 40nm miles to the east of it, and will cover an area of 499 square miles.
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