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Unmanned Aircraft Trial for NWt Shelf Going Ahead

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence Media Mail List

PARLSEC 049/2006 Monday 22 May 2006

Unmanned Aircraft Trial for North West Shelf Going Ahead

A Defence trial, using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and an Armidale Class patrol boat, will be conducted across Australia's North West Shelf region in September 2006, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Senator Sandy Macdonald announced today.

Senator Macdonald said the proposed trial was a commitment made by the Australian Government in its 2004 election policy Securing Australia's North West Shelf.

"The North West Shelf region is of vital strategic and economic interest to Australia and enhancing existing security in this area is a priority for the government. Criminal activities such as illegal fishing, drug running and people smuggling must be stopped," Senator Macdonald said.

Senator Macdonald said the trial will assess the potential of UAVs to operate under a joint, integrated surveillance capability with the Navy's Armidale Class Patrol Boats to provide an additional layer of surveillance in Australia's approaches.

The trial is being led by the Defence Science & Technology Organisation (DSTO) in collaboration with the Navy, RAAF, Army and other areas of Defence, as well as the Joint Offshore Protection Command (a partnership between Defence and the Australian Customs Service).

US company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) will be jointly conducting the trial with Defence. A UAV system, made by the company, will serve as the aerial platform for the trial.

Conducted over 30 days, including a flying period of 14 days, the trial will start with three test flights out of RAAF Edinburgh near Adelaide, followed by four missions from RAAF Learmonth on the north west coast of Western Australia. RAAF Edinburgh will also be the primary mission control site while the UAV is airborne.

Contracts were signed in March with both US companies, paving the way for the trial to proceed during the month of September. The UAV being used has been modified specifically for the purposes of the Australian trial. It will carry only sensor and communications equipment suitable for maritime surveillance missions.

"This UAV trial is a valuable exercise for Defence. The results will assist in developing the requirements for phase one of Air Project 7000. Under this project Defence plans to acquire a long endurance, multi-mission unmanned aerial system," Senator Macdonald said.


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