Airbus and VDL Group will produce an airborne laser communication terminal – 01/10/2023 at 10:06

(AOF) – Airbus and VDL Group have signed a partnership agreement for the development and manufacture of a laser communication terminal for aircraft, called UltraAir. Based on the development led by Airbus and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the two companies will now prepare a demonstration of a prototype and a first flight test in 2024. From 2024, Airbus and VDL Group (a Dutch high-tech industrial supplier) will continue to industrialize the prototype in order to make it ready to be integrated into a host aircraft.

VDL brings design for production to the partnership and will manufacture critical systems. A flight test of this industrialized prototype is planned for 2025 on an aircraft.

UltraAir will allow the exchange of large amounts of data using laser beams in a network of ground stations and satellites in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the Earth.

Featuring unparalleled technology including a highly stable and accurate optical mechatronics system, this laser terminal will pave the way for data transmission rates of up to several gigabits per second while providing anti-jamming and low probability of interception.


Key points

– Aircraft manufacturer co-world leader with Boeing, born in 1949 under the name Aérospatiale, diversified into satellites;

– Turnover of €52.1 billion, drawn from civil aircraft at 67%, defense & space activities at 21% and helicopters at 12%;

– Order book of €373 billion, 29% from Asia-Pacific, 30% from Europe, 21% from North America, 9% from the Middle East and 5% from Latin America;

– Business model of offering safe and environmentally friendly aeronautical and space solutions, with a strong commitment to society and public services;

– Open capital with strong positions of the French, German (11% each) and Spanish (4%) States, the 9-member Board of Directors being chaired by René Obermann, Guillaume Faury being Managing Director;

– Financial situation supported by public finances with, at the end of September, €8 billion in net cash and free cash flow of €3.5 billion.


– “Next chapter” initiative based on 3 pillars -simplification, strengthening and growth- and aiming to create a more profitable, more resilient and leading company in the decarbonization of the industry;

– Innovation strategy integrated into the business model and supported by €2.9 billion in R&D:

– “Fast-Track” roadmap prioritizing electrification, industrial systems, connectivity, autonomy, hardware and artificial intelligence,

– “CRT” organization focused on disruptive technologies, associated with external partnerships,

– structuring: E-Fan Family, ATTOL Fello’Fly, ACIC, TELEO, .ACUBED, BIZ Lab…;

– Environmental strategy with the ambition to become No. 1 in carbon-free aviation:

– design of a “ZEROe” aircraft with hybrid-hydrogen fuel,

– integration into the reporting of emissions emitted by customers,

– launch of 2 hydrogen engine development centers in France and Germany,

– proliferation of initiatives -High5+ reduction of emissions and waste during the production process, Sentinel 5P of air data, Air Race E…

– integration of ESG criteria in certain credit facilities;

– Resumption of hiring and acceleration of the production rate;

– Visibility of the activity with a strong recovery in order intake at the end of September: 647 civil aircraft, 246 helicopters;

– Positive impact of the rise in the dollar, the currency of sale for 80% of revenues;


– Russia-Ukraine war: medium-term search for new sources of titanium supply and freezing of orders for large air carriers by Aeroflot;

– Supply disruptions: reduction in the number of monthly deliveries of the A 320s;

– Still uncertainties about the future of the SCAF program – air combat of the future;

– Postponement of the entry into service of the A321XLR initially scheduled for early 2024;

– Evolution of legal cases, with the German OHB and with Qatar Airways;

– After a 3.3% increase in operating profit at the end of September, 2022 objectives raised: delivery of 700 civil aircraft, increase in operating profit to €5.5 billion and free cash flow to €4.5 billion.

The end of a duopoly?

For several decades, the American Boeing and the European Airbus have shared 99% of the world market for airliners with more than 110 seats. This market weighs more than 100 billion dollars per year. However, this duopoly seems to be weakened in 2022 for several reasons. First, for the first time, two medium-haul single-aisle aircraft, the Chinese Comac’s C919 and the Russian Irkut’s MC-21, are about to enter service. Added to this is the Boeing 737 MAX crisis. With the cessation of deliveries of this aircraft between 2019 and 2021, the production balance has been broken. In 2021 Boeing posted 340 deliveries, with Airbus remaining well ahead with 611.

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