Lancashire plane makers have received a boost following an agreement between France and Britain to work together on a £120m drone project.
Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande publicly revealed the two-year unmanned systems feasibility study after key talks on Friday.
Although mostly secret, BAE Systems has previously revealed some details of programmes which allow pilotless planes to take to the skies.
These include Mantis and Taranis, the latter a military stealth drone designed to fly intercontinental missions and bomb targets.
Some of the work is done in Lancashire, and the announcement will safeguard jobs as BAE leads the British input into the feasibility study.
BAE has recently completed a joint study for the UK and French governments with Dassault Aviation, known as the Future Combat Air System Demonstration Programme Preparation Phase study.
The news builds further on the investment and technological capabilities BAE Systems has already developed in unmanned air systems over the past decade through a number of prototypes and demonstrators.
Most recently, the company and the UK Ministry of Defence designed and built the Taranis Unmanned Combat Air System.
Technologies from Taranis will make an important contribution to this next unmanned air systems development programme.
Today BAE’s chief executive officer Ian King said: “Together with Dassault, we welcome the further support from our Governments for our joint work in developing this important defence capability for the United Kingdom and France.
“Given the strong research and development investment and progress in technology that has already been made, continuing work in unmanned air systems will also ensure we maintain the core knowledge and the key skills necessary to make a long-term contribution to both our national economies.”
Last year, a BAE chief in Warton said the development of unmanned aircraft was likely to be “an important component” of the company’s future business.
About the size of a BAE Systems Hawk Jet, Taranis was formally unveiled in 2010.