Unmanned warfare should be the future of defence if Britain is to stay ahead of its enemies, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has said.

Space warfare and drones modelled after dragonflies and underwater creatures are being developed by Oxford University as part of the Ministry of Defence's innovation strategy, Mr Fallon said, after revealing astronaut Tim Peake as a member of the new "Dragon's Den"-style Defence Innovation Advisory Panel.

Speaking after announcing the panel at the university's Department of Engineering Science on Monday, Mr Fallon said: "We have seen that our adversaries are capable of moving ahead with technology, particularly with the use of drones and aircraft in Daesh's defence of cities such as Mosul.

"We have to make sure our drones can fly faster and in all conditions."

The first British astronaut to reach the European Space Agency will join former GCHQ boss Robert Hannigan and Ron Dennis, founder of McLaren Technology Group, to form part of the new panel.

In the intimate speech to engineers and academics, Mr Fallon also said: "The innovation journey we have embarked on won't just enhance our security, (but will take) Britain from number three on the Global Innovation index, to number one."

The panel is part of the MoD's six-month-old Innovation Initiative which aims to "blend government, industry and academic talents" to improve defence strategy.

Robotics researcher Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte was also named the new Chief Scientific Advisor and will oversee the £400 million annual budget used to develop the MoD's research and technology programme.

Former Fomula One team boss Mr Dennis said: "There can be nothing more important than our national security, and I'm enthusiastic to be among the first of those named to this world-class panel, who have joined MoD to spearhead their efforts to innovate across the organisation, from technology to culture - challenging the status quo, staying ahead of the curve through change and innovation."

Mr Peake, who did not attend, said in a statement: "I'm delighted to be part of the Ministry of Defence's drive to place innovation at the heart of everything that they do, and to bring my experience to the effort to improve the culture (that) keeps the UK safe."

The Defence Secretary also announced the launch of a two-year £8 million drone research project, and visited the Animal Dynamics facility to see a Skeeter micro-drone with tiny wings inspired by a dragonfly.

The MoD has placed contracts with the firm worth up to £1.5 million since June 2015 and the drone is part of a wider project aimed at improving intelligence-gathering in urban environments.