A Drone Test and Development Centre has opened at Westcott Venture Park.

Park owner Patrizia Hanover Property Unit Trust has agreed a lease with the Satellite Applications Catapult on the new centre, a project funded by the Buckinghamshire LEP.

It has three large workshops for firms to design, build, test and operate drones including using specialist drone safety technology .

A former Royal Air Force runway will come back into use as a drone test runway for horizontal take-offs and there will be four landing pads.

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.”

Westcott is already home to several drone operators including Flare Bright, Airspeed Electronics and Nexus Nine.

Image (l-r): John Rippon programme manager of the Buckinghamshire LEP and Kieran Arnold, chief architect of future networks and systems at Satellite Applications Catapult.

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