The world's first state-of-the-art Zephyr Solar High-Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) operating base has been officially established at Wyndham Airfield in Western Australia's north.
The project, a collaboration between the McGowan Government, Airbus and other key stakeholders including the Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley and Kimberley Development Commission, will see a Zephyr aircraft operate out of Wyndham.
The Zephyr HAPS is a solar-powered unmanned aircraft that flies at more than 65,000 feet and provides a range of earth observation and communications services.
Zephyr provides new capabilities for a wide range of civil and defence purposes including environmental management, mineral exploration and bushfire management.
The largely unrestrictive airspace, and reliable weather conditions in the Kimberley region, make Wyndham the ideal site for Zephyr flights.
The project will bring economic benefits to the East Kimberley region, with up to 20 Airbus staff to be based in the local area during operational phases providing a boost to local businesses.
The McGowan Government has been working to bring the project to WA since early 2018, when the Premier and Minister for Defence Issues met with Airbus representatives in the United Kingdom.
The establishment of the Zephyr base complements the McGowan Government's recently launched Defence and Defence Industries Plan to grow the State's defence industry capability, develop strategic infrastructure and build innovation partnerships.
It also demonstrates Western Australia has the geography, capability and local workforce to establish a thriving space industry, with the McGowan Government pitching WA as the base of the new National Space Agency.
-- Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:
"Securing the world-first Zephyr operating base in WA demonstrates our State has the capacity, geography and local workforce to establish thriving defence and space sectors. This is an exciting project that highlights Western Australia's potential to become a world leader in the science and technology industries, creating jobs for local workers.
"The establishment of the base in Wyndham is the culmination of almost a year of hard work by Airbus and my Government to bring this exciting and cutting-edge technology to WA. The Zephyr aircraft provides new capabilities to commercial and military customers and will bring an economic boost to the East Kimberley region.
"The decision to operate the Zephyr out of Wyndham complements our recently released Defence and Defence Industries Plan to grow our State's defence industry capacity and build relationships with world-class companies like Airbus."
-- Comments attributed to Defence Issues Minister Paul Papalia:
"The opening of the Airbus Operating base for Zephyr demonstrates the advancing strength and growth of the State's defence industry.
"With Defence's growing interest in autonomous and innovative technologies, having Zephyr operating out of Wyndham presents significant opportunities for our defence industry to further develop skills, capabilities and networks in this space."
-- Comments attributed to Science Minister Dave Kelly:
"This world-first project will add to the long list of WA capabilities that do not exist elsewhere in Australia. It further positions WA as a leading contender to be home to some operations of the new National Space Agency.
"This is just one example of the opportunities that are available to WA in the space sector, a global industry worth around $450 billion.
"WA has strong capabilities and advantages including our location, areas of radio quiet, our existing satellite and deep space communication facilities."