Airbus Plans to Tap The Unmanned Drone Industry

Airplane maker Airbus is planning to become a heavyweight in the drone space, its CEO Tom Enders has said. Enders said in an interview with Bloomberg that "it is hard to imagine" the European company "not having a strong footing" in at least one of the drone markets, either military or commercial unmanned aircraft. He also said that high-level managerial figures at Airbus are currently assessing various strategic options for a drone-focused business roadmap. "We have produced some [drone] demonstrators over the years" and have experience operating them, Enders said.

However, the CEO said the company has not spoken about its drone ambition before because "we are not in a very strong position", with more research and development being needed. Enders said a drone strategy could be designed within months, yet, he refused to detail any specifications on what that would look like. He said that the top figures of the company support Airbus entering the drone market, and they feel "it is a must to be in this area".

The company is still looking at the benefits and challenges of developing military and commercial drones, as well as addressing how much the company wants to commit into such project with direct investment.

Airbus has over the years spent millions of dollars in trying to build a military drone that would overcome the technology used by US and Israeli rivals, according to the WSJ. Yet, the company has never managed to build a powerful device with its own technology.

According to PwC, the drones market value in terms of business services is estimated at $127.33bn. By 2022, the commercial drone market is expected to reach nearly $1tr, with a CAGR of 16.9%, Grand View Research estimates. Airbus reported its results for Q1 2016 in April, with revenues of €12.2bn, slightly more than the €12.1bn recorded in Q1 2015. Despite lower deliveries of 125 aircraft (Q1 2015: 134 aircraft), revenues were stable at commercial aircraft.Self-financed R&D expenses declined to € 547m(Q1 2015: € 701m). Net income in the first quarter of 2016 was € 399m (Q1 2015: € 792m). In 2016, Airbus expects to deliver more than 650 aircraft and the commercial order book is expected to grow.

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