(Reuters) – Aerospace group Airbus said on Monday it was seeking outside investment for its Zephyr high-altitude surveillance and communications drone program, with the aim of expanding its operations and accelerating its commercialization.
The Zephyr drone is designed to hover at an altitude of approximately 21 kilometers for months for surveillance purposes or to temporarily boost communications.
The drone is solar-powered, with secondary batteries charged in daylight for nighttime flight.
The French aircraft maker has asked Morgan Stanley to find external partnerships for the company which will operate under the “Aalto” brand, a company spokesman told Reuters.
“Airbus plans to remain the majority shareholder of Aalto, but will consider outside investment to help accelerate the company’s objectives,” he added.
The Financial Times newspaper, which first reported the news on Monday, said Airbus was considering splitting off its drone division with the aim of launching commercial operations by the end of next year.
Sameer Halawi, who has been running the program since last summer, told the Financial Times that the Zephyr was “at the final design stage”.
“The idea of the deal is to bring like-minded partners into the equation and be able to scale this business.”
(Gokul Pisharody report in Bangalore; French version Jean Rosset; edited by Blandine Hénault)
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