One of the world's largest military contractors, BAE Systems, has started unmanned flights of a small passenger plane over the Irish Sea.
According to the company, successful trials could lead to use of unmanned air vehicles for search-and-rescue operations and for detecting volcanic ash clouds.
Over a period of time the sophisticated technology could also be used for commercial flights.
Simon Shrouder, spokesman for BAE Systems said, everyone needed to be satisfied that the plane could fly safely and land safely.
He added, once confidence in the aircraft grew, it could be used for such things as coastal patrols, search-and-rescue missions and checking out possible volcanic ash clouds.
Shrouder added in years to come, it might be that confidence was so great that there was scope for passengers to be carried on the flights - but that was many, many years off.