Despite the absence of renewed government funding, industry will start work planned for the second phase of the UK's public-private Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment (Astraea) programme on 1 May.
UK technology company Qinetiq and its industrial Astraea partners are to start certification-related work with their own funds to exploit the technology developed under the programme's first phase. That began in 2006 and concluded with a simulated unmanned air vehicle flight through non-segregated UK airspace last year.
Talking to Flightglobal.com at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems Europe 2009 conference at the NATO Undersea Research Centre in La Spezia, Italy, Qinetiq aerospace technical director Nigel Mills said: "You can only do less with only half the money. We are still negotiating government funding".
Under phase two, communications security and emergency procedures were to be developed in a laboratory, while sense-and-avoid and collision avoidance technologies were to be tested using a manned surrogate aircraft. Astraea had originally aimed to culminate in 2012 with a UAV flight demonstration in non-segregated airspace.
Mills says industry now plans to pay for the work, with the UK government to contribute later at a slowly escalating level. Aligning budget contributions from the government's six partner bodies has become very difficult, he adds.
These are the Technology Strategy Board, which recently confirmed that it will not commit funds to the effort this year, the Welsh Assembly government, the South East of England Development Agency, Scottish Enterprise, South West of England Regional Development Agency and the North West of England Regional Development Agency.