Airbus may split Zephyr drone program – 23/01/2023 at 08:42

(AOF) – Airbus is considering spinning off its Zephyr high-altitude surveillance and communications drone program with the aim of starting commercial operations by the end of next year, according to the Financial Times. . The French aircraft maker has asked Morgan Stanley to find foreign partnerships to help accelerate the commercialization of the company, which will operate under the Aalto brand, according to a British economic and financial newspaper.

The solar-powered Zephyr drone is designed to fly for months at an altitude of about 21 kilometers for surveillance purposes or to temporarily boost communications.

Sameer Halawi, who has run the program since last summer, told the Financial Times that Zephyr is “in the final design phase”.


Key points

– World leader with aircraft manufacturer Boeing, born in 1949 as Aérospatiale, transformed into satellites;

– EUR 52.1 billion in turnover, 67% from civil aircraft, 21% from defense and space activities and 12% from helicopters;

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

– A business model that offers safe and environmentally friendly aeronautical and space solutions, a strong commitment to society and public services;

– open capital with strong positions of France, Germany (11% each) and Spain (4%), the Board of 9 members is headed by René Obermann, managing director Guillaume Faury;

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


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

– An innovation strategy integrated into the business model and supported by 2.9 billion euros in R&D:

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

– “CRT” organization focuses on disruptive technologies related to foreign partnerships,

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

– Environmental strategy with the desire to be the 1st in carbon-free aviation:

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

– integration into the report of emissions issued by customers;

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

– dissemination of initiatives -High 5+ reduction of emissions and waste during the production process, Sentinel 5P weather data, Air Race E…

– Integration of ESG criteria into certain credit facilities;

– restoration of employment and acceleration of production;

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

– 80% of revenues have a positive effect of the increase in the price of the dollar, the currency of sale;


– Russian-Ukrainian war: mid-term search for new sources of titanium supply and freezing of orders by Aeroflot for major air carriers;

– Interruptions in supply: decrease in the number of monthly deliveries of A 320s;

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

– Postponing the launch of the A321XLR, originally planned for early 2024;

– Evolution of legal affairs with German OHB and Qatar Airways;

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

The end of the duopoly?

For several decades, America’s Boeing and Europe’s Airbus share 99% of the world market for aircraft with more than 110 seats. The weight of this market is more than 100 billion dollars per year. But this duopoly seems to have weakened in 2022 for several reasons. First, for the first time, two medium-range single-aisle aircraft – the C919 of China’s Comac and the MC-21 of Russia’s Irkut – are about to enter service. Added to this is the Boeing 737 MAX crisis. The production balance has been disrupted by the suspension of deliveries of this aircraft between 2019 and 2021. In 2021, Boeing sent 340 deliveries, while Airbus was well ahead with 611.

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