By Peter La Franchi in Paris

The UK’s ASTRAEA unmanned systems initiative could expand to incorporate common European unmanned air vehicle air traffic integration objectives after the current project phase concludes in 2008, according to steering board member Nick Miller.

Speaking at the Unmanned Vehicle Systems International UAV 2006 conference in Paris last week, Miller said that while the programme has been launched as a UK initiative, European funding is being seen as a potential option to achieve project goals beyond 2008.

The ASTRAEA project is intended to leverage UK national objectives for the development of the domestic aerospace industry to create a competitive advantage as the global civil UAV market develops. However, with current national funding worth £32 million ($60 million) to cover only the first three years of the project, alternate finance sources will need to be explored to carry on the work, potentially becoming the focus for wider European participation, he says.

The project is already being influenced by rapidly developing common European policy arrangements for integration of UAVs into non-segregated airspace, and these may also provide opportunities to enable wider connections to be developed.

The existing funding is being jointly provided by the UK government and via direct industry contributions.

Miller says that, while the project aims to achieve a fully integrated demonstration flight programme of technologies and systems, this will not happen during the current project phase. Instead it is targeting the establishment of an integrated systems laboratory that will draw together all programme elements by 2008.

Limited flight trials will be carried out as part of individual technical projects he says, but developing plans call for this work to be extended post-2008 into surrogate aircraft and a UAV. Four demonstration projects are currently proposed as part of the programme’s second stage, focusing on affordability, propulsion, logistics and an overarching integrated system demonstration.

This work will represent the outcome of eight enabling technical development and four policy development projects launched in January this year ahead of formal funding contracts being signed last month.

Source: Flight International