The government said that development of unstaffed craft could "revolutionize", as well as powerline and pipeline inspections--all of which currently rely on human-flown aircraft.
The investment will support a $57.9 million project called Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment, or Astraea.
The project will develop existing technology, regulations, systems and procedures, with the aim of bringing unstaffed vehicles into routine operation in U.K. airspace.
Alistair Darling, the U.K. Trade and Industry secretary, said the Astraea project will position the U.K. among the leaders in. Simon Jewell, chairman of the steering board for the Astraea consortium, said it will open up a "new era of aerospace."
Steve Ranger of Silicon.com reported from London.