A new drone range at Cloncurry Airport has hosted its first test flights by aerospace giant Boeing.
Boeing recently completed flight tests with five high-performance surrogate jets operating autonomously in a team at the new Queensland Flight Test Range.
The facility is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere and includes a hangar, buildings for office space and monitoring equipment, range control systems, a surveillance radar and amenities.
“Australia’s first commercial drone flight testing centre is officially open for business at Cloncurry Airport,” Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning Steven Miles said
“The construction phase of this state-of-the-art testing facility for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) supported more than 100 direct jobs in the region including five new apprenticeships.”
Mr Miles said establishing the Queensland Flight Test Range was a key part of government’s strategy to support a diverse economy and bring high-technology industry and more jobs to the region.
The State Government invested $14.5 million for design, construction and support for the foundation stage of the facility.
“Boeing Australia tested their advanced autonomy project including brain-on-board technology over 10 days in Cloncurry, flying up to five high performance test aircraft in a team for the first time,” Mr Miles said.
“To enable instrumented testing of this calibre to occur right here in Queensland is something that makes us extremely proud.”
Global defence technology company QinetiQ was appointed to design and construct the facility, establish the flight test range and manage this foundation stage of the drone testing facility.
QinetiQ Australia managing director Greg Barsby said the flight test range would support all weight classes of UAS for routine flying operations, demonstration activities and test and evaluation trials.
“It will be a critical component in the overall drone ecosystem, as an enabler and connector of high-technology UAS programs and initiatives,” Mr Barsby said.
Director of Boeing Phantom Works International Emily Hughes said the company would take the opportunity to continue flight trials on key autonomous projects.
“The facility will provide excellent conditions to test a range of airborne test beds, which is part of an autonomy R&D program that’s heading toward new autonomous product and prototypes,” Ms Hughes said.