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Media Release

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment

COMMERCIAL TAKE-OFF OF PILOTLESS AIRCRAFT


10 May 1998

A new long-range pilotless aircraft with a wingspan of only three meters and a 20cc engine called the Aerosonde took off today (Monday 11/5/98) in Canberra.

The Aerosonde is a joint development project and was officially launched today (Monday) at RAAF Fairbairn by the Parliamentary Secretary for the Bureau of Meteorology, Senator Ian Macdonald.

"The Aerosonde program will be accelerated following funding of a new joint development project that is worth in the order of $11 million of which $4.5 million would be accessible to the Bureau of Meteorology to accelerate relevant system development projects.

"The new funding arrangement of this joint project involves a licensing agreement, which ensures that the Bureau retains ownership of intellectual property and receives ongoing income from the systems commercialisation," Senator Macdonald said.

The Aerosonde has taken several years to develop and is the result of collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology, Sencon Environmental Systems Pty Ltd a Melbourne based company and the US-based Insitu Group.

"The Bureau of Meteorology under the direction of Dr Greg Holland has been working with Sencon and Insitu and this is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when the private and public sector join together.

"The aircraft demonstrates the quality of Australian science and engineering and the world class expertise of Australia's Bureau of Meteorology in developing this very useful, low cost method of gathering and transmitting weather information.

"The aircraft promises to substantially improve the accuracy of weather forecasts and warnings by providing forecasters with detailed information from remote locations and even from the middle of a cyclone," Senator Macdonald said.

The potential activities of the Aerosonde include routine observations in remote locations, severe weather reconnaissance, lightning detection and local environmental monitoring.

"The most satisfying aspect of this innovative environmental monitoring concept is that it is being driven by Australians and encourages the development of leading-edge technologies in this country rather than offshore.

"The Aerosonde is proving to be a valuable export industry, with over 30 overseas orders already filled," Senator Macdonald said.

The project has been endorsed by the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.

ENDS

10 May 1998
For more information contact Clare Richards (02) 6277 3665 or 0419 698 275
Philip Connole (02) 6277 3665 or 0411 042 813

Digital Colour photographs of the Aerosonde are available.

Information packs containing additional information on the Aerosonde will be available at the launch and demonstration being held at RAAF Fairbairn (Canberra) at 10.45am on Monday 11 May 1998.

Commonwealth of Australia