Airbus is looking at becoming a market leader in the drones industry. Tom Enders, chief executive at the European plane-maker said that his company was evaluating options to become a major player in the segment.
Years of wrong moves by Airbus have allowed rivals to dominate the industry. While companies such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems control a majority of the military drone market, the commercial drone market is crowded with smaller companies fighting for market share.
Enders said that Airbus was no longer content sitting on the sidelines and added that Airbus was in the midst of a high level management review which was evaluating various strategic options. Without revealing specifics of the review, he stressed that there was already a strong feeling that "it's a must [for Airbus] to be in this area".
Enders explained that the airplane manufacturer was contemplating how much of its focus should be on commercial drones as compared to military remote-controlled aircraft. According to industry officials, the company is identifying the amount of funds it would invest directly for developing a new range of drones for both public and corporate use.
Airbus has made several attempts to boost its drones business in the past. It had spent millions to catch up with its US and Israeli rivals. However, its attempts were unsuccessful, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In 2013, Airbus had initiated a programme to sell a high-altitude spy drone to the German air force by partnering with American defence company, Northrop Grumman. But the deal fell through amid high costs and technical snags. Another example was its campaign to develop a homegrown surveillance drone, called Talarion. This venture also failed after Airbus could not garner support from Germany and other European countries.
Despite the failures, Airbus will try to build an agreement among various European states to share the costs of potential government drone models. To get an initial boost, Airbus would also consider acquiring or partnering with an established drone manufacturer, industry officials claim.
Excluding drones used by hobbyists, the annual drones market is expected to increase from around $4bn (£2.77bn, €3.51bn) in 2015 to $14bn by the middle of the next decade, according to estimates by the Teal Group, an aerospace & defense consultant based in Virginia, US.