Airbus Launches Drone Imagery Capture, Analytics Subsidiary

 - May 10, 2017, 12:52 PM
Airbus and Intel have used the Falcon 8 drone, seen here at Xponential 2017, to perform aircraft exterior inspections. (Photo: Bill Carey)

Airbus has created a new U.S. subsidiary to provide imagery services to customers using data collected from drones and satellites. Airbus Aerial, based in Atlanta, will offer services to the insurance, agriculture, oil and gas, and utility industries, as well as to state and local governments.

“Through Airbus Aerial, we are uniquely positioned and fully committed to advancing the commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry,” said Airbus Defence and Space CEO Dirk Hoke, in an announcement made May 10 at the AUVSI Xponential conference in Dallas. “Using an integrated combination of assets, from UAS platforms to satellite imagery, Airbus Aerial is rolling out a wide range of new imagery services. In the future, additional pillars of the Airbus Aerial activities will be in the area of cargo drone services as well as providing connectivity via aerial assets.”

The European manufacturer has named Jesse Kallman, previously director of customer engagement and regulatory affairs with Airware, of San Francisco, an aerial data and analytics provider started with venture capital in 2011, as president of Airbus Aerial. “Drones are only a piece of a much larger picture for us,” Kallman stated. “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.”

The subsidiary has already started recruiting employees for positions in software development, data analytics and drone operations, among other jobs, according to the announcement.

During a keynote address on May 9 at the Xponential conference, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich reported on work the semiconductor manufacturer is doing with Airbus using small drones with precision mapping capability to perform aircraft exterior inspections. Intel has supplied the Falcon 8 multi-rotor drone gained from its acquisition last year of Ascending Technologies of Germany, to record imagery for three-dimensional digital models.

“Now it’s a manual system with people having to climb all over the plane,” said Krzanich. “With Airbus we’ve developed a system that’s capable of doing it both on the tarmac or in the hangar. Airbus has developed additional software that allows you to do an airplane inspection, identify and geolocate defects, understand their size and dimensions, and then push out a data report that allows you to go back and do a repair.”