Westcott Venture Park’s position as launchpad for the development of drone technology has been further strengthened with the opening of a new Drone Test and Development Centre.
Westcott’s owner PATRIZIA Hanover Property Unit Trust has agreed a lease with the Satellite Applications Catapult on newly developed drone test facilities in a project funded by the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (Bucks LEP).
The facilities include three large workshops from which companies can design, build, test and operate advanced remotely piloted and autonomous aircraft or drones.
Drone operators and companies will be able to refine their product or services at the new facility, including capabilities that will support Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) which relies on space data and technology, and is fundamental to integrating drone aircraft safely into the UK’s national airspace.
The project will also bring a former Royal Air Force runway back into use as a 270-metre drone test runway for horizontal take-off and four dedicated landing pads for vertical, or vertical to horizontal, take-off. These facilities are welcomed by drone companies at a time when there are heavy restrictions on drone operations.
Nigel MacKenzie, Development Manager at Westcott said: “We are thrilled to support this innovative project bringing yet another heritage area of the site back into use and extending the test capabilities at Westcott into the exciting field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
“Westcott is already home to a number of pioneering drone testing companies and these new facilities will benefit existing onsite occupiers as well as attracting new operators to the site. This will further enhance the ever-growing ecosystem of technology companies at Westcott and allow them to work collaboratively to undertake research and development of market-leading aviation technologies and services.”
Kieran Arnold, Chief Architect of Future Networks and Systems at Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “The UK is fairly limited on what we call a “segregated facility”. A lot of drone operations are either done from general aviation airfields, or from farmer's fields, with no facilities whatsoever. The Catapult’s new facility will provide drone companies with a purpose-built, secure environment, which segregates them from the restrictions that normally occur when you're in a contended aviation environment.”
John Rippon, Programme Manager of the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership said: “The new Drone Test and Development Centre will help to shape and transform private and commercial aviation over the next decade, so we are proud to provide Getting Building Funds to help established this pioneering new facility.
“Westcott is an important development area for Bucks LEP, one which encompasses our Buckinghamshire Enterprise Zone, and this investment will help facilitate growth in the Buckinghamshire economy and further establish the county as a global centre of excellence in drone and space technology.”
Westcott is already home to a number of drone operators including award winning Autonomous drone company Flare Bright, deep tech systems company Airspeed Electronics and Nexus Nine.
Photo caption: from left to right: John Rippon Programme Manager of the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Kieran Arnold, Chief Architect of Future Networks and Systems at Satellite Applications Catapult