NOISE, safety and privacy were the three hot topics raised this week by visitors to the first public consultation session on airspace plans for the testing of unmanned aerial systems from Parc Aberporth.

Welsh Assembly Government and UAV centre representatives met hundreds of locals at Aberporth Village Hall on Thursday as the 12-week consultation period got under way.

"Most people are concerned about safety, possible noise and privacy and we have been able to answer many of their concerns," said Paul Cremin, WAG’s UAV development manager.

He added: "This permission is essential to the development of Parc Aberporth, without it we cannot have the UAV development there.

"Once we can proceed we can develop this into an international centre of excellence and that will see the start of the creation of many new jobs, but it is still a slow process," he added.

The consultation document contains details of three airspace options covering an area from Cardigan to Llanon and extending inland into Powys.

The Welsh Assembly Government is proposing the airspace change to support routine testing, research and development of UAVs from West Wales Airport in a specially segregated airspace.

Currently temporary restricted airspace within six miles of the airfield is used for testing a range of UAVs – and this will be used from summer 2009 for the test and evaluation of the MoD’s Watchkeeper programme, by Qinetiq.

The much extended airspace proposal now being consulted on would come into force from summer 2010, if approved.

The environmental assessment states there will be "less environmental impact" than from conventional manned aircraft; and it adds that the number of annual air movements now permitted at the airport (8,800) will not be exceeded.

Key details of the consultation show: *a significant proportion of UAS operations will be in line of sight, up to 500m from the operator at the airfield.

*longer range operations could go up to heights of 20,000ft.

*flying is likely to take place on about 100 days a year in the areas nearest the airfield; fewer further away.

*both civil and military unmanned craft will be tested in the airspace.

WAG representatives told locals that unmanned vehicles will be subject to the same safety rules as manned aircraft; that they are significantly smaller and quieter than manned aircraft; and that there are strict rules regarding privacy.

Further public meetings are being held as follows: May 30, 10am to 3pm, Holy Trinity Church Hall, Newcastle Emlyn; June 9, 2pm to 7pm, Memorial Hall, Aberaeron; and June 20, 10am to 3pm, Small World Centre, Cardigan.

The consultation document is available from or by post from ACP Consultation Secretary, WAG, Department for the Economy and Transport, Ladywell House, Newtown SY16 1JB.

Comments must be received by July 21.