Airbus Seeks to Raise Its Profile in the Drone Industry

2016-05-15

Airbus Seeks to Raise Its Profile in the Drone Industry
Airbus Group SE wants to become a major player in the fast-growing global drone industry, said its chief executive, Tom Enders, after years of missteps by the European plane maker that have left rivals with the upper hand.

Airbus is no longer content to sit on the sidelines while rivals around the world capture burgeoning markets for military and commercial unmanned aircraft, Mr. Enders said Tuesday during an interview.

“It’s hard to imagine” Airbus eventually not having a strong footing in at least some of those businesses, he said, disclosing that a high-level management review is currently assessing various strategic options.

The issue is shaping up as an early test of efforts by Mr. Enders to make Europes largest aerospace company more entrepreneurial by better sharing expertise among company operations and reaching out to technology startups to foster creativity.

We have produced some (drone) demonstrators over the years and have experience operating them, Mr. Enders said, but Airbus has refrained from publicly emphasizing its ambitions partly because we are not in a very strong position yet when it comes to large-scale projects

A new strategy may come within months. Mr. Enders declined to elaborate on the specifics of the internal review, though he emphasized that at the top of Airbus, there already is a strong feeling its a must to be in this area. And he predicted a clearly-defined plan will emerge before the end of the year.


The annual market for drones, excluding the smallest systems used principally by hobbyists, should increase from roughly $4 billion last year to $14 billion by the middle of the next decade, with $93 billion total spent over roughly the next 10 years, according to estimates by the Teal Group, a Fairfax, Va.-based aerospace consultant.

The military drone market is dominated by Northrop Grumman Corp., Israel Aerospace Industries and San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. The commercial drone market is more fragmented, with many small players jostling for share.

Airbus, the worlds second-largest commercial airplane builder after Boeing Co., is considering how much focus to put on commercial drones versus military models, Mr. Enders said.

In addition, Airbus officials are weighing how much they are willing to commit in direct investment to develop a suite of new drones for public and corporate uses, according to another industry official familiar with the process. Despite previous stumbles, the company also may try again to pursue the time-consuming process of building a consensus among various European states to share the costs of potential government models.

Germany, France, Italy and Spain last year agreed to study possible work on a joint military drone, though concrete plans to develop and buy such a system arent set, and national elections could upset even preliminary agreements.


To jump-start its efforts, Airbus also could choose to acquire or partner with an established drone maker, according to industry officials.

Airbus last year set up a venture-capital business and pledged an initial $150 million investment in disruptive and innovative business opportunities. Local Motor Inc. a Phoenix-based company that uses digital manufacturing techniques to build appliances and vehicles from crowdsourced designs, became its first investment. The two since have launched a drone challenge to seek design ideas for drones to deliver medical supplies in emergencies. More than 200 entries already have been received.

Airbus has made attempts in the past to become a drone powerhouse and spent years and millions of dollars trying to catch up with U.S. and Israeli rivals with little success.

It sold a military drone to the French air force more than a decade ago, though that was based on an Israeli design. The French air force has since acquired Reaper drones from General Atomics and turned to French supplier Safran SA for smaller unmanned surveillance aircraft.

An Airbus campaign to win backing from Germany and other European countries for development of a homegrown surveillance drone, called Talarion, also flopped. Potential customers balked at the programs proposed cost and schedule. France and the U.K., two of the countries Airbus hoped to enlist, since have embarked on a bilateral drone program being developed by rivals BAE Systems PLC and Frances Dassault Aviation SA.

A program to sell the German air force a high-altitude spy drone in partnership with Northrop faltered in 2013 amid concerns over rising costs and technical issues.Through the years, Airbus was frustrated by the fragmented nature of Europes decision-making with regard to long-term drone acquisitions. That same hurdle could pose a major challenge for its latest initiatives.

Yet, Airbus has remained active in building prototypes and researching unmanned aircraft. It worked on some experimental, solar-powered drones intended to fly extremely slowly and remain aloft for up to 90 days at a time. In February, the company led an industrial consortium to work with the European Union on integrating drones into the regions airspace.

Efforts to build up its drone market share come after Mr. Enders decided to focus Airbus increasingly on aerospace activities and shed other operations.

The company this year announced it would sell its defense-electronics operations to private equity group KKR & Co. for about $1.25 billion. It also may shed border-security activities no longer seen as core for the company.

Lower Photo: Tobias Schwartz/REUTERS

Source: Wall Street Journal

Region:  Europe
Contry:  France
Category:  UAV


French Start-Up Unveils Inflatable UAVs

2017-04-05
French Start-Up Unveils Inflatable UAVs
French start-up company Airvada presented its range of innovative DIODON inflatable unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) at SOFINS, near Bordeaux.

Airbus DS Progresses on European MALE RPAS Contract

2016-06-24
Airbus DS Progresses on European MALE RPAS Contract
Airbus Defence and Space (DS) is to sign a definition study contract for the European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) remotely-piloted air system (RPAS) by mid-July, ahead of the commencement of development work on the project in September.

First Drone Delivery to Ship at Sea

2016-03-11
First Drone Delivery to Ship at Sea
Maersk Tankers says that it has completed the first drone delivery to a vessel at sea as part of a test to see whether or not drones can become a part of the supply chain.

French Air Force Explores Fuel Cell Technology

2016-02-29
French Air Force Explores Fuel Cell Technology
EnergyOr Technologies Inc., a leader in advanced PEM fuel cell systems for aerospace applications, recently signed a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) with the French Air Force’s Centre d Expertise Aérienne Militaire (CEAM). This JDA will serve as the foundation to advance development of optimized long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms powered by EnergyOrs fuel cell system technology.

Survey Copter Flies To Stratasys For 3D Printing Of UAV Systems

2013-05-23
Survey Copter Flies To Stratasys For 3D Printing Of UAV Systems
France-based Survey Copter, a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. (EADS), specializes in the design, production and integration of complete remote systems for surveillance photography and video service applications for UAVs and other airborne craft

French town says it will deliver daily newspapers by drone

2013-04-01
French town says it will deliver daily newspapers by drone
Residents ofAuvergne, a province in south central France, may soon receive their daily paper by drone.

SBG Systems introduces Ekinox Series, a new family of MEMS-based Tactical Grade Inertial Systems.

2013-01-17
SBG Systems introduces Ekinox Series, a new family of MEMS-based Tactical Grade Inertial Systems.
Rueil-Malmaison, France – SBG Systems presents Ekinox Series, a brand new product range of tactical grade inertial systems which brings robust and cost-effective MEMS to the Fiber Optic Gyro (FOG) level. This series consists of two ITAR Free models; the Ekinox AHRS which provides 0.05° 3D Attitude and 5 cm Heave, and the Ekinox INS which delivers additional 2 cm position.

France evaluates Watchkeeper UAS

2012-11-13
France evaluates Watchkeeper UAS
British and French military procurement agencies have begun an evaluation of the Watchkeeper tactical unmanned aerial vehicle by Thales UK.

French DGA Prepares the Use of UAVs on Naval Platforms

2012-10-24
French DGA Prepares the Use of UAVs on Naval Platforms
The French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA, Direction générale de l’armement) has recently conducted successful sea trials of D2AD*, an automatic takeoff and landing system for rotary wing UAVs. D2AD is a demonstrator, designed and built by DCNS and Thales who were awarded the contract in late 2008.

UAS Flights of up to 100km permitted by French Aviation Authorities

2012-10-05
UAS Flights of up to 100km permitted by French Aviation Authorities
France takes a huge leap forward, this permission has major implications for power and pipe line simple surveys and anything that happens BLOS (beyond visual line of sight)
Congratulations must go to Delair Tech! Pushing the boundaries!
French Civil Aviation Authority, the DGAC, awarded Delair-Tech the first authorisation ever issued to a UAS company in France, for a civil UAS to fly over 100 km in French airspace.


Back to the list