The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) today announced its endorsement of the Airspace Change Proposal (ACP) which will create a unique environment within the UK for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to fly in segregated airspace. The revised airspace will become effective from 28 July 2011.
The Welsh Government, which sponsored the ACP, has been the driving force behind setting up the Wales UAS environment, which includes ParcAberporth as a dedicated centre for UAS. Endorsement of the ACP will further enhance the facilities and services already available within the region.
This exciting new development consolidates Wales' position at the forefront of UAS development and is the culmination of 4 years effort by Welsh Government, QinetiQ and West Wales Airport. The Welsh Government contracted QinetiQ to provide technical advice on the design, consultation, review and delivery of the proposal (ACP) to the CAA.
Welsh Government Business Minister Edwina Hart described the announcement as a significant step forward in support of the on-going development of an emerging technology sector with high growth potential. "The ability to have dedicated airspace and facilities available in the UK is seen as key to ensuring that Wales and the UK are at the forefront of this new and growing sector. It provides Wales with a unique proposition to attract companies working in this sector and also has the potential to raise the profile of Wales in international markets. Our ultimate aim is to create sustainable employment opportunities in the region."
The decision to endorse the ACP represents an important stepping stone for the integration of UAS into controlled and uncontrolled airspace, and uniquely makes provision for multiple UAS operations and the mixing of aircraft types. The CAA stated: "the acceptance of this proposal marks a significant step forward with regard to Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations within UK airspace".
Carl Davies, from QinetiQ said: "By working closely with the Welsh Government and other key stakeholders, the Wales UAS environment is unique in Europe and represents a world class facility for the development of unmanned aircraft systems and the critical sensors and technology they carry. Through the provision of managed airspace and QinetiQ's safety oversight, we can support a range of operations that will enable manufacturers, users and potential customers to develop, demonstrate and train within an environment which the regulators have recognised as a focal point for UAS activity in the UK. This will support increased familiarity, awareness and understanding of UAS from a regulatory perspective, which in turn promotes informed development of UAS integration into the national airspace.
All operations will be subject to strict safety management systems, with regulatory oversight provided by the CAA and the Military Aviation Authority (MAA).
Local airfield services shall be provided by West Wales Airport to unmanned flights whilst continuing to encourage general aviation. Ray Mann, Managing Director of West Wales Airport said, "The CAA announcement to allow this specialised airspace is unique and further recognition that West Wales is without doubt, the focal point for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the UK. The aerospace industry, research organisations and academia now have an even greater opportunity to succeed in this sector, so gaining benefit for themselves and the wider economy."
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