Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 12:18 UK

Plans to extend drone test zone

Parc Aberporth
Parc Aberporth has received support from the Welsh Assembly Government

Plans to extend a test flight zone for unmanned aircraft over parts of mid and south west Wales are under review.

A centre of excellence developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Aberporth, Ceredigion, restricts flights to six nautical miles.

But under new proposals that could be extended to 15 miles (24km), taking in airspace over parts of Powys, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

A consultation process by the Welsh Assembly Government ends in July.

The new extended flying zone is earmarked to start in summer 2010.

Three options are under consideration, but they all include airspace over Powys, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire.

Unmanned aerial vehicle
Unmanned aerial vehicles are used for both civilian and military purposes

A consultation document about the proposals said: "The Welsh Assembly Government is proposing an airspace change to support the routine testing, research and development, demonstration and certification of UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) in a segregated airspace environment.

"Establishing new temporary segregated airspace will ensure that UAS undergoing development and certification at West Wales Airport/Parc Aberporth will be able to operate in a controlled and safe airspace environment, appropriately separated from manned aircraft.

"The Welsh Assembly Government is keen to ensure that the option put forward should be the one that provides the greatest benefit to the UAS industry and has the least impact on the local community, airspace users and other stakeholders."

The document said UAVs were currently restricted to a radius of six nautical miles around West Wales Airport and a height of 5,000ft.

The document added: "Other (larger) aircraft will need to operate further away from the airfield, and for longer periods.

"A significant proportion of UAS have a requirement to operate up to 15 miles from West Wales Airport, and up to an altitude of 10-12,000 ft for periods of several hours at a time."

The restricted airspace zone around the UAV base at West Wales Airport will be increased temporarily later this year when the new Watchkeeper UAV will be tested before entering service in the British Army.

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