A year on from its launch, Airbus Aerial has managed to carve out a position as one of the organisations driving market within the commercial drone space.
Jesse Kallman, president of Airbus Aerial, a new business unit within Airbus, the global heavyweight in space and aeronautics, stepped into the role last May.
Over the course of his career, Kallman has worked across various parts of the industry including research at Georgia Tech, federal policy at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), commercial UAS business at Airware, and advocacy with groups such as the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Kallman told Commercial Drone Professional about the subsidiary’s market entry and what it looks to achieve within the market.
How would you describe Airbus Aerial’s primary goals within the UAV industry?
Our general philosophy and what we’re doing as a business is trying to bring together many different types of aerial data into one common service, a lot of the development over the last couple of years in the commercial drone industry.
Drones are very good at doing specific types of things, like more on demand local area types of inspections. But when lots of companies are looking at using aerial data in general they have lots of different needs. Drones are good for some, traditional manned aircrafts and satellites may be good for others so what we wanted to do was to be able to help UAVs better integrate with some of these larger companies by being able to offer, not just drones and raw data, but a whole suite of UAV data services along with analytics.
Drones are very good at doing some particular tasks but it’s hard for big companies to set up their own internal drone programmes and stand up that infrastructure and be able to manage the data and share the data.
What they’re trying to accomplish is being able to build that common infrastructure to allow all these groups of data services to operate as one and make it much easier for large companies to be able to work and use and log information without having to be experts.
How do you look to achieve those goals?
For one we have built a brand new product infrastructure. This is a fully-cloud based, geospatial system that manages the entire chain, from the initial customer order, determining what is the best data collection method, and how the data should be collected. And then managing the entire data process, getting all the information back, processing it, analysing it, fusing it with other sources, all in one platform. We take a lot of the guess work away.
Airbus is already one of the world’s largest satellite imagery providers so there are already a huge name when it comes to aerial data, but primarily from satellites. What Aerial has done is combine that satellite capability now with drones in manned aircraft. Again we’re not 100% new to this market, Airbus has been dealing with geospatial data for over 30 years so we’re just adding new types of data and making it simpler to add data in new ways.
Could you outline the company’s current plans for development and why the decision was made to make those moves?
This business is pretty new. We launched this business in May of last year and in November of last year we opened up an office in Munich to better service the European market. We have a staff of people in Munich, and recently we also launched an office in Singapore to now bring a lot of the services and a lot of the technology we have developed here in the US to better serve that Asian market.
We’ve been rolling out geographically; we’ve grown our team a lot in the last six or seven months. As far as product development items, we’re now focusing on the solution side of things, how do we take all of this information?
What have been the challenges that you have encountered since the organisation launched?
The challenges are like any small start-up or business. We’re taking an idea and making a business from scratch and trying to implement it and, because it’s Airbus, we’re trying to leverage that skill that Airbus provides quickly and efficiently but also in a way that is really meaningful for large companies and being able to do it across the world. We are somewhat a start-up, but we represent pretty large companies so being able to leverage the pros and cons of each of those is an interesting challenge.
And how would you describe the current state of the industry?
In general I would say the drone industry has been growing year-on- year by a pretty significant amount. Just three or four years ago in the US market the industry was barely getting going and now you see all sorts of large companies, and I think this shows that drones are really taking off.
Public perception is starting to warm up, is that making it easier for the industry to continue to develop?
Yes absolutely, it has to match legislation. If you look at legislation you’ll see the governments are becoming warmer to technology and I think it really is because it’s not this new scary thing.
People are saying: ‘This is a tool just like anything else,’ it’s helping insurance companies be better, it’s helping individuals and it’s a fun recreational thing for individuals. I think people are starting to see it’s a really useful tool that people can leverage and that’s why we’re seeing support in all parts of the world.
Where would you like Airbus Aerial to be within the next five years?
If we had our way we would want to be the world’s largest service provider when it comes to aerial data so any large organisation, anywhere in the world that’s looking to better understand infrastructure or service a customer after a natural disaster, we’re the go-to brand.