French aerospace giant Airbus this week unveiled a new subsidiary aimed at the commercial drone market in the U.S.
The company announced its Airbus Aerial startup, which will include bases both in Europe and the U.S., at the AUVSI Xponential show in Dallas. The U.S. headquarters will be located in Atlanta.
The new company will initially focus on imaging services, with a goal of combining software and aerospace technology to enable analysis of information from drones as well as high-altitude aircraft and satellites.
Officials said that its future ambitions include cargo drone services and internet connectivity through airborne systems.
The Wall Street Journal noted that Airbus generally trails rival aerospace companies — including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman — in drone technology, and unmanned commercial systems face an uncertain future in the U.S. as authorities consider how to regulate them.
Airbus officials, however, said that the company is uniquely positioned to incorporate vehicle manufacturers, analytics companies and other partners "to enable data-focused services at large scale."
In addition to its potential implications for commercial deliveries, Airbus also plans to target state and local governments as well as the insurance, agriculture, energy and utility sectors.
"Drones are only a piece of a much larger picture for us," said Jesse Kallman, who will lead the Atlanta-based operation. "Airbus Aerial brings together a variety of aerospace technologies — including drones and satellites — combines them in a common software infrastructure, and applies industry-specific analytics to deliver tailored solutions to our customers’ biggest challenges."