Unmanned airport secures prime contract

West Wales Airport has secured a two year contract from the British Defence Ministry (MoD) for the continued supply of its specialised airfield services and facilities.

The £2.5 million contract will enable the MoD to maintain the test, evaluation and further refinement of its highly capable UAS at the Aberporth based airport, giving the UK further opportunity to establish its position at the forefront of this currently burgeoning sector of aerospace.

West Wales Airport has been consolidating a lead position in the UAS market since 2004 when it embarked upon the development of its site in order to supply specialised facilities for unmanned operations. It is currently the only airport in the world to be authorised by a civil aviation authority (the CAA) to enable UAS flights beyond visual line of sight. In awarding the contract the MoD is supporting the UK Government’s aim of utilising smaller companies to deliver more of the country’s defence procurement needs.

“The UAS flight services and specialised operating facilities supplied by West Wales Airport during the past few years, has been a key factor in the successes that have been achieved,” said the MoD. “The Authority is looking forward to maintaining its close working relationship with the airport in the continued delivery of the Watchkeeper system to the UK armed forces.”

The UK’s unmanned systems opportunity has now been significantly enhanced through the development of a partnership between West Wales Airport and Newquay, Cornwall Airport (formerly RAF St Mawgan) leading to the creation of the National Aeronautical Centre (NAC).

Launched in September 2013, the NAC is now recognised as a world unique facility and a UK national asset that can deliver large scale specialised services in segregated airspace to both the military and civilian sector.

Centrally managed, the NAC can supply UAS flight operations and accommodation at either West Wales or Newquay, whilst a wide range of additional support services are available through its associated companies and organisations, including Thales, Selex ES, 3SDL, Cornwall’s Aerohub and The Welsh Government.

Ray Mann, managing director of West Wales Airport and architect of the NAC, said: “We are delighted with the recognition that the MoD has given to the company through the award of this prime contract.  The investment that has been made at West Wales Airport over the years is now beginning to pay dividends; not only to the airport and its UAS customers, but also to the local community.  In addition, the creation of the NAC has ensured UAS operators can benefit from world-class facilities as they move to develop larger and even more capable unmanned systems in the future.”

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