AIR SHOW: European Aviation Firms Propose Drone Program

PARIS–Three European aerospace companies on Sunday announced they are ready to team up to propose to their governments a joint program to develop medium-altitude, long-endurance drones for their armed forces.

Drawing from their experience in recent years in combat zones such as Afghanistan and Mali, European governments have come to realize the importance of having surveillance drones to guide the operations of their troops on the ground. But so far there has been no European program to make a home-produced drone, and defense ministries have preferred to buy drones from manufacturers in the U.S. and Israel.

The initiative of the three companies effectively puts the onus on their governments to come up with a development program. Industry experts say, however, that even if a decision is taken this year, any drone to emerge from a joint initiative would take several years to bring into service.

EADS Cassidian, the defense division of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. (EAD.FR), France’s Dassault Aviation (AM.FR) and Finmeccanica Alenia Aermacchi of Italy said they are proposing a joint program that would allow governments to cater to the needs of their armed forces while reducing the cost by pooling research and development funding. They said that certification of the joint drone program would imply integrating the capability of drones being allowed to fly in European air space, something that isn’t possible today.

The companies said in a joint statement that a joint program would guarantee European sovereignty and independence in the management of information and intelligence, while offering a robust system that would resist cyber attacks. 

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