Robot spy planes get £16m government boost

Pilotless aircraft project takes to the skies
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Pilotless aircraft project takes to the skies

The government is spending £16m on the development of robot aircraft that could be used by the police for surveillance.

The government said that development of unmanned craft could "revolutionise" police and fire service surveillance, or power and pipeline inspections, which currently rely on manned aircraft.

In the future these tasks could be carried out by unmanned aircraft with the technology to sense and avoid other objects.

The investment forms part of the £32m Astraea (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment) programme.

The project will develop existing technology, regulations, systems and procedures, with the aim of bringing unmanned vehicles into routine operation in UK airspace.

In addition to receiving £5m from the Department for Trade and Industry, Astraea has also received £11m funding from regional development agencies and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling said the Astraea project will position the UK among the leaders in unmanned aerial vehicle technology, while Simon Jewell, chairman of the steering board for the Astraea consortium, said it will open up a "new era of aerospace".

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