STUTTGART, Germany – The gears are running for the unmanned Eurodrone flight system program with four nations. A development contract was approved last month and a formal contract signature is expected early next year, an Airbus official said on Dec. 9.
Jana Rosenmann, director of unmanned aerial systems at Airbus, announced at the company’s annual media briefing that the company had reached an agreement with the Organization for Joint Armaments Cooperation (OCCAR) on November 19 to develop the next-generation, long-range, middle-class, medium-altitude class have drone. OCCAR manages the Eurodrone program on behalf of the four European partners Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
The program’s industrial team, consisting of the prime contractor Airbus Germany as well as Dassault Aviation and Leonardo, submitted an offer for the program in June. Since then, the companies have been involved in “very interesting and very lively discussions” with OCCAR, said Rosenmann during the briefing, which took place virtually.
“I believe that what we have on the table today is a fair and reasonable proposition for both parties, both the customer and the industry,” she said. While a formal contract is expected to be signed in almost 2021, industry teams will now prepare for the ramp-up of the Eurodrone program, which will include filling 7,000 new technical positions across the continent.
Rosenmann also announced that the final assembly of the Eurodrone will take place at the Airbus hub in Manching. “We’ll only have a single final assembly line,” she said. “This serves the efficiency and of course also for cost reasons for our customers.”
Certain elements can be manufactured elsewhere and then handed over to Manching for final assembly and soil testing. The delivery center will also be in Manching, she said. The fuselage will be fully integrated and assembled in Spain before moving to Germany, added Rosenmann.
In the meantime, the question of who will supply the total of 120 Eurodrone motors remains open. “As we are currently in a competition process, we cannot reveal any further details,” said Rosenmann.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruption to industries around the world, and Airbus was no exception, Rosenmann noted. But the UAS department picked up speed again at the end of the 2020 calendar year and is keen to keep its program portfolio, including Eurodrone, going, she said.
While the company is waiting for the formal contract to be signed, Airbus expects the first flight of Eurodrone in 2025 and the start of delivery by Rosenmann in 2028. The current contract provides for 20 Eurodrone systems, each of which includes three aircraft for a total of 60 twin-engine air platforms. Currently, Germany, the main nation of the program, has signed a contract for seven systems, while Italy has committed to five systems. Spain and France each target four Eurodrone systems.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the drone’s characteristics. The acronym MÄNNLICH stands for medium height and long endurance.