Drones, or unmanned aircrafts, are becoming more common and more affordable — and as a result, they’re not just for the military anymore. To meet growing interest, the UK’s Civilian Aviation Authority will soon open the world’s first airport dedicated to drones, located in Southern Wales.

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The airport — a pimped-out version of the West Wales Airport — will feature a 4,100-foot runway and sit amid a 500-square-mile swath of airspace also reserved for drones. Currently, about 10,000 people live below the airspace.

The expanded airport hopes to lure commercial firms who are developing drones. In the U.S., non-military drones are heavily restricted. From a purely scientific point of view, that may be a bad thing, but with the vast capabilities of drones — spying and killing among them — some of which are no larger than an insect, a government stronghold seems like a pretty good idea.

But one drone researcher, eager to use the all-drone airport himself, emphasized the technology’s potential to conduct environmental monitoring. Carl Davies, project manager at the West Wales UAV Centre and the UK-based defense contractor Qinetiq, told Discovery News, “We can do forestry, we can do whale-watching, we can do pipeline surveys.”

Via MSNBC and PopSci

Lead photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy