In 2011 a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned air vehicle could be controlled via satellite over western Europe in a proposed demonstration that will help set standards for the 2015 introduction of military and civil UAVs in non-segregated airspace.
The demonstration will involve flying over more than one country and use a secure command and control link to switch between ground control stations and satellites that will be EADS Astrium-operated spacecraft.
The work is part of the European Defence Agency's (EDA) roadmap, agreed in 2007, to realise UAV integration into non-segregated airspace by 2015.
The exact details of the demonstration, such as the UAV type used and nations overflown, will be determined by two concurrent six-month feasibility studies worth a combined €800,000 ($1 million). The contracts were awarded last week by the EDA and the European Space Agency.
The EDA says: "The vision is to have an initial operating capability by 2015. The contracts are another example of EDA and ESA co-operation".
The EDA's €400,000 contract has been awarded to a consortium led by EADS Astrium. Its consortium includes its sister company EADS Defence and Security and UK company Qinetiq. ESA has awarded its contract to another team.
Another part of the EDA's roadmap is a 2013 sense and avoid demonstration project costing €53 million, and international agreement for radio frequency allocation. The EDA wants UAV-dedicated frequencies agreed at the 2012 World Radio Congress.
The EDA's parent body, the European Union, has already funded a €1.5 million study into radio frequency allocation for UAVs.