Drones to fly out of Newquay testing site

Image caption Military drones could be tested over the sea off Newquay

Unmanned aircraft, or drones, could soon be flying out of Newquay Airport in Cornwall.

A deal with the National Aeronautical Centre (NAC) in Wales will see aircraft tested for military or civilian use.

The NAC, which has authority to fly drones, said it was attracted to Newquay because its 3,000m runway is bigger than in Wales.

Testing will take place in a 3,000 sq mile segregated area for unmanned aircraft over the sea.

Image caption Drone flights will be restricted to a segregated area over the sea

'Huge advantage'

Ray Mann, from the National Aeronautical Centre, said: "We fly about three or four missions a day in west Wales.

"We have a 1,200m runway, but Newquay has one of the longest runways in the UK which is a huge advantage."

The NAC's agreement could see a number of its clients, which include the Ministry of Defence and Thales, operate their aircraft from Newquay.

Mr Mann said the firm was attracted by the prospect of office, hangar and security at the Aerohub enterprise zone, launched there in 2012.

He predicted huge growth in the sector with demand for drones in fisheries protection, air sea rescue and border controls, as well military use.

"We have to recognise where the sector is going," he said.

"We know there is demand and we have to be prepared to meet that."

Al Titterington, managing director of Newquay Cornwall Airport, said: "The UK aerospace industry has a major opportunity in the UAS (Unmanned Air Systems) market but first it must develop, demonstrate and prove that systems and sub-systems can contribute to ensuring safe and reliable operations, whilst being properly regulated."

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