In an Australian first, a $14.5 million drone flight-testing facility will be built at Cloncurry Airport, bringing high-tech industry and more jobs to North West Queensland.

Funded by the Queensland Government, it will test small-to-medium sized drones weighing 30–150 kilograms and is expected to attract clients from across Australia and around the world.

Announcing the new facility, Minister for State Development and Minister responsible for the Queensland Drones Strategy Cameron Dick said construction was scheduled to begin in early 2020.

‘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,’ he said.

‘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 was looking forward to using the flight facility to safely and securely test the latest advances in autonomous 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 Queensland Government will invest $14.5 million in the first stage of the facility, which will be built on airport land and include a hangar, operation room and surveillance radar and communications equipment. Construction is expected to create 65 local jobs, with further economic benefits over the long term.

Mr Dick said during the facility’s initial stages of operation drones would make test flights over short distances of up to 25 kilometres along a designated flight path away from built-up areas.

Queensland is already recognised as a global drone hotspot, with Brisbane hosting the World of Drones Congress for the past 3 years and Logan chosen as one of the first international sites for a drone-delivery trial.

Western Queensland’s potential as a drone testbed has also been promoted through the Outback Aerodrone Symposium, held in Barcaldine in 2018 and 2019.

TIQ has brought overseas delegations to the Barcaldine event both years, with TIQ Japan staff accompanying representatives from high-tech Japanese companies on a mission to this year’s symposium.

Promoting Queensland’s potential as a location for drone research, development and testing was a focus of the trip.

The aerospace sector is identified as an emerging export priority in the Queensland Trade and Investment Strategy 2017–2022.