Australia-first drone testing site to call Cloncurry home

Australia-first drone testing site to call Cloncurry home

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Cloncurry mayor Greg Campbell, Boeing's senior manager experimentation Rob Hargrave and state development minister Cameron Dick with an example of a drone that could be tested at Cloncurry's new facility.

Cloncurry mayor Greg Campbell, Boeing's senior manager experimentation Rob Hargrave and state development minister Cameron Dick with an example of a drone that could be tested at Cloncurry's new facility.

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A cutting edge $14.5 million commercial drone testing facility will be built in Cloncurry in early 2020.

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A cutting edge $14.5 million commercial drone testing facility will be built in Cloncurry in early 2020.

The Boeing Company will be the first company to use the site, with construction due to begin early next year.

The state government will invest $14.5 million in the first stage of the facility, which will include a hangar, operation room, surveillance radar and communications equipment.

The facility is expected to create 65 jobs during the construction phase, with it due to open mid-year.

The announcement was made during Cloncurry's inaugural Innovation Forum on Monday.

The facility, which will be one of the world's largest commercial unmanned flight test facilities, will initially be used to test small-to-medium sized drones weighing between 30-150 kilograms.

During the early stages of operation drones will make test flights over short distances of up to 25 kilometres along a designated flight path away from built-up areas, with Cloncurry's wide open spaces making it an ideal location.

State development minister and minister responsible for the Queensland Drone Strategy Cameron Dick said the construction of the new facility was bringing world-class aerospace technology to the Queensland outback.

"Our government was the first in Australia to launch a drone strategy, and now we're well on the way to becoming the nation's drone technology capital," he said.

Cloncurry mayor Greg Campbell said the announcement is a major win for Cloncurry and the North West.

"This will create a hub for aerospace R&D that will be a new high-tech industry for the region, to create jobs and boost the local and state economy,' he said.

"It's unreal.

"I'd like to see after this initial trial period in the first couple of years, that this becomes a permanent facility.

"There's a permanent facility in the US, there's a permanent facility in Asia, we could become home to the third one in the world."

Cr Campbell said he anticipated there might be some ongoing job opportunities associated with maintenance and security, but the main ongoing workforce would be in the form of skilled professionals who came into town to conduct the trials.

"They'll be at our motels, eating out, playing sport and attending events," he said.

"We'd love to see them as part of the community while they're here."

Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone CEO Glen Graham said it was an exciting development for the region.

"It's going to bring a new dimension to Cloncurry and probably to the North West because it's designed to attract international players to Cloncurry," he said.

"Cloncurry has been a pioneer in the aviation industry with Qantas and the Royal Flying Doctor Service... now it's a pioneer again but this time in the 21st century.

Director of Boeing's Phantom Works International Shane Arnott said the company is looking forward to using the flight facility in 2020 to safely and securely test the latest advances in unmanned systems technology.

"The opportunity here in Australia is our wide open spaces and the ability to go and fly and try things," Dr Arnott said.

"Having it as a commercially available facility is very important for us to get our products out in the field, tested at a particular time so we can bring them to market earlier."

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