AUSTRALIA

Drones to protect northern gas assets

Defence Minister Robert Hill said Prime Minister John Howard will soon announce a new coastal defence trial featuring a squadron of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to patrol Australia’s various offshore oil and gas reserves as an anti-terrorism and protective measure.

Drones to protect northern gas assets

The unmanned drones, similar to those used by the US in Iraq, will focus on the vital gas reserves in the North West Shelf and will cost $6 million as part of a major national security initiative.

The trial will involve two aircraft - the Global Hawk, built by Northrop Grumman, and General Atomics' Mariner.

Speaking with Channel 9 yesterday, Senator Hill said “The issue will be their coverage of the north west infrastructure and whether we should, from that trial, invest in that capability which could give us a 24 hour a day coverage of that region.

“We have identified our oil infrastructure on the North West Shelf as a national strategic asset (and we) should obviously...seek to protect it with whatever capabilities we have, but as new capabilities come on line, and these unmanned aerial vehicles are an example of that, we want to take advantage of those opportunities.”

The move was welcomed today by shadow defence spokesperson Kim Beazley, who said “we are very much in favour of the development of UAV capabilities.”

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