Airbus Wants to Help Close Europe’s Drone Gap

Alenia Aeronautica two UAV, Sky-X and Sky-Y


Can Airbus do for drone making what it did in the commercial jet business? To gain a foothold in a market now dominated by the U.S., Airbus Group (AIR:FP) and two other European aerospace companies today unveiled plans to develop a “next-generation advanced European unmanned aerial system” for military and intelligence use.

Airbus’s defense unit is teaming with Dassault Aviation (AM:FP) of France and Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi to develop a drone that could be ready for launch by 2020. “The need for our armed forces is indisputable,” Bernhard Gerwert, chief executive of Airbus Defence & Space, said in a statement.

Catching the competition won’t be easy. Governments in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands are already buying the Reaper drone made by General Atomics in San Diego. Israel also sells drones to Europe, while several efforts to develop a European-made drone have stumbled.