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Rona Noise Range

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Rona Bay service road, 2007
Rona Bay service road
© Calum McRoberts

The Rona Noise Range is situated between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland, and is used to measure the radiated acoustic signature of surface ships, submarines and underwater vehicles. The facility is maintained by defence contractor QinetiQ, which is co-located in the area with BUTEC (British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre), also operated by QinetiQ on behalf of the Royal Navy and MoD, at Kyle of Lochalsh and Applecross.

The facility lies in Rona Bay, which lies at the end of the service road leading to the left from the helipad seen in the photograph.

One of three such ranges maintained in Scotland, the others are located at Loch Goil, and LochFyne.

The Rona Noise Range is used for underway ranging of submarines. The Loch Goil Noise Range is used for the static ranging of all types of vessels and the underway ranging of surface ships with the maximum speed limitations imposed by the size of the ship, and the Loch Fyne Noise Range is used for underway ranging of surface ships.

Formerly operated by DERA (Defence Evaluation and Research Agency) until QinetiQ took over in 2001, the Rona range was created in the 1950s, and was considerably extended during the 1970s, when the nearby BUTEC facility was established.

Description

The Rona range is the only range in the UK where submarines may exercise at full speed, and can accommodate craft travelling at speeds of up to 80 knots. The test area measures approximately 12 km x 4 km and has an average depth of 235 metres, and is equipped with eight noise measurement hydrophones and nine underwater tracking hydrophones.

Data from the sensors is cabled back to the terminal complex on the island of Rona, where onshore data recording and analysis equipment is located.

Sheltered by the islands to the west and the mainland of Scotland to the east and south, the test area is effectively screened from the majority of distant shipping noise generally found in the open sea.

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