SECRETARY of State for Wales Simon Hart has visited West Wales Airport in Aberporth, where he saw the latest unmanned aircraft being developed there.

During his visit the Welsh Secretary met the airport’s managing director Ray Mann and Nick Miller, of aerospace company Thales UK, which test and operates unmanned aircraft at the site.

Created in 2002, West Wales Airport has become a centre for the evaluation and testing of unmanned flight systems since the first drone flight in 2004.

While at the airport, Mr Hart saw the Thales Watchkeeper which is used by the British Army and heard about its plans to develop further as a centre of the unmanned aircraft industry.

Mr Hart said: “It was great to see what is happening at West Wales Airport first-hand and to hear about how the work taking place there is strengthening the Welsh aerospace sector.

“I look forward to seeing how its unmanned aircraft capability develops and it is fantastic that this world-leading technology is being tested and evaluated in the heart of west Wales.”

The Watchkeeper programme has not been without its problems, with several crashes being recorded.

The last occurred near the airfield on June 13, 2018, which prompted calls for a safety review by many local residents. Flights were temporarily grounded by the Ministry of Defence, though have since resumed.

That crash was the fifth occasion an unmanned Watchkeeper drone - which has a length of 6.50m, a wingspan of 10.95m and an overall height of 2.18m - had been lost in an accident.