PARIS — France plans to sign an agreement with Germany and Italy to launch studies for a European medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV at the Paris Air Show in mid-June, said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
The signing is seen as a critical first step in retaining industrial skills in aeronautics and intelligence gathering.
“Our effort in surveillance and ISR drones should be boosted, notably with the launch this year of studies for a future European UAV that France expects by 2025 with Germany and Italy,” Le Drian told journalists March 11 as he set out his agenda for the year.
European sovereignty underpins the project, as the UAV would be equipped to avoid the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations, a source close to the project said.
“The Paris Air Show in June will be a major rendezvous for our defense industries,” Le Drian said. “It will be a significant step on the road to producing a European drone, as we will sign then an agreement in principle on the launch of studies”.
A recent French order of the US-built General Atomics Reaper “slightly traumatized us” as industry had been working on UAVs for some time, Dassault Aviation chairman Eric Trappier said March 11. That French acquisition of the Reaper is a temporary measure and it is time for the Europeans to prepare for the future, he said.
A third US-built Reaper UAV will be delivered next month, and the second order for a three-strong batch will be made in the summer, he said.