UK to open UAS test centre at Boscombe Down

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The UK is to open a new centre of excellence to combine the unmanned systems knowledge held by the industry developers and military operators of such equipment.

To be fully operational by April 2013 and with a main hub at the Ministry of Defence's Boscombe Down test site in Wiltshire, the Unmanned Air Systems Capability Development Centre (UASCDC) is being established in conjunction with science and technology company Qinetiq. It is intended to "support the rapid development of UAS programmes from concept to deployment", Qinetiq says.

"Alongside the MoD, we are implementing a new approach so that we can combine our people's in-depth understanding of air vehicle engineering, release-to-service, integration of command and control and communications systems, and above all safety, with that of the full range of suppliers. This combined approach will allow new UAS capabilities to be brought to life more efficiently and effectively than before," says Fiona Lewinton, Qinetiq's UASCDC account director.

Key objectives will include the maximum re-use of data collected from earlier work, other measures intended to "accelerate technology insertion", and the coordinated access to airspace to support test activities.

The choice of the Boscombe Down site to host the main element of the UASCDC stems from its proximity to the Salisbury Plain military training area, as well as the existence of blocks of temporary restricted airspace agreed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority in support of the British Army's Watchkeeper tactical UAS programme.

In another initiative, the UK's ADS industry organisation and Farnborough International will stage a Global Intelligent Systems Expo at the Five exhibition centre in Farnborough in July 2013. Supported by the MoD and the UASCDC, the exhibition is expected to include the display of real-time imagery relayed from UAVs operating out of Boscombe Down. It will be followed by a similar event to be run during the next Farnborough air show in 2014.