Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems UK has become the first major tenant at the new West Wales UAV Centre (WWUAVC) at the ParcAberporth technology park. On July 7, during the ParcAberporth Unmanned Systems 2006 exhibition, Andrew Davies, the Welsh Assembly Government’s Minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Networks, officially opened the center.
Later on the same day Davies signed a contract with Selex S&AS covering the establishment of a base at Aberporth from which the company will test various UAV designs and payloads. Following the signing, Selex demonstrated its medium-size Falco UAV in the air.
A part of the Finmeccanica group, Selex S&AS occupies Unit 7 at Aberporth airfield, from which the company can fly UAVs with a wingspan of up to 13.5 meters (just over 44 feet). The unit also includes a payload integration laboratory. The company will use the MoD’s Aberporth overwater range, which has a range-head nearby on the coast.
During this year, ParcAberporth’s activities have focused on a move from initial establishment to operations, with a new partnership formed between West Wales Airport and Qinetiq that resulted in the creation of the WWUAVC.
In the immediate future, ParcAberporth’s plans include further development of the airfield, its runway and its IT infrastructure; the establishment of a permanent restricted airspace; establishment of more tenants; and the acceleration of civilian UAV applications.
A small rotary-wing UAV already has been demonstrated to police forces for tasks such as car-bomb searches, and to mountain rescue teams. Further displays are planned. ParcAberporth will also be the main center for ASTRAEA (autonomous systems technology related airborne evaluation and assessment) work. ASTRAEA is a UK-wide program that focuses on technologies and procedures that will allow unmanned systems to operate safely in UK airspace.
The program involves EADS, Qinetiq, FRL, Thales and BAE Systems, and includes input from the University of Wales (Cardiff and Aberystwyth). It is funded by several government departments, including the Welsh Assembly Government. –D.D.