Airbus is known for its commercial aircraft, and perhaps best for its A380 airliner that holds the title for the world’s largest passenger jet. At the 2017 Paris Air Show alone it secured $39.7 billion worth of new business. Now Airbus looks to expand its portfolio to include UAS services.
In May, Airbus announced its commercial drone service startup Aerial, which aims to bring aerospace engineering, satellite imagery and drone services together under one roof. Its targeted industries will include agriculture, infrastructure, energy and more.
“It will have a U.S. operation and a European operation. The objective of the business is not to build and sell drones — people are doing that already — but to capture all the available opportunities for aerial observation,” Barry Eccleston, President and CEO of Airbus Americas, said. “We want to capture the [aerial] data and offer the data as a service. We’re using [drones] right now to inspect airplanes. We send a drone up to inspect the tail of an airplane instead of using a big cherry picker. Our objective is to offer this on a global scale.
“We want to step up the level of service that is offered,” Eccleston continued. “A lot of people have a drone and can go out and take pictures. OK, fine. But we can offer a whole series of services from macro to micro, to data analysis. There’s going to be a lot of consolidation in this industry. We saw this opportunity to be one of those consolidators.”
While Aerial will be looking to consolidate this area of the industry, Airbus believe there will always be room for local operators and contracted work.
“For the services we don’t already have we’re contracting it out,” Eccleston explained. “Over time we want to develop longer term partnerships or even acquisitions of companies and bring that service in house. There will always be areas of the value chain where we will always contract out to local basis.”
Currently, Aerial is conducting proof-of-concept in insurance, manufacturing and public utilities markets. So far 15 engineers and UAV developers have been hired to join its Atlanta-based office.