The Queensland government has committed to building a $14.5 million commercial drone flight testing facility at Cloncurry Airport, which may be used by Boeing to test its Loyal Wingman platform.
Premier and Minister for Trade Annastacia Palaszczuk said the announcement was a key part of government’s strategy to support a diverse economy in the north west and create more jobs for locals.
“This facility will create 65 jobs during construction and bring ongoing benefits to the region," Premier Palaszczuk said.
“It’s just one of 13 innovative diversification initiatives that tap into the potential of the north west, and further proof that by working together with local councils and the community, we can grow Queensland’s economy."
Minister for State Development Cameron Dick said construction of the new facility is scheduled to begin early 2020.
“The Palaszczuk government is creating more jobs in more industries, bringing world-class, cutting-edge aerospace technology to the Queensland outback,” Minister Dick said.
“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.
“We have secured the world’s largest aerospace group, the Boeing Company, to be the first to conduct trials at the facility, creating an exciting new aerospace industry for the region."
Boeing director of 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 creation of what will be one of the world’s largest commercial unmanned flight test facilities is critical to establishing Australia as a global leader in autonomous technology,” Dr Arnott said.
The announcement comes at that the same time as Boeing completed its first autonomous teamed flights.
Boeing took to Twitter to announce that it had "successfully achieved first autonomous teamed flights using high-performance jets as test beds and Australian-developed mission systems technology", as well as accompanying vision of the testing.
While the actual Loyal Wingman platform is still yet to be tested, it's expected that first test flights will take place next year.
While stopping short of confirming that the platform would be tested at the Cloncurry facility, Boeing provided Defence Connect with a statement.
"We aren’t in a position to confirm where the Loyal Wingman will be flight tested," the statement said.
"However, Boeing would see strong potential in the Queensland government’s facility accommodating a range of aircraft sizes in the future."
The Cloncurry facility will be able to make test flights over short distances of up to 25 kilometres along a designated flight path away from built-up areas.