MILAN — Airbus has hired a Spanish technology center to help with ground testing of the Eurodrone’s propulsion system, marking the first step toward the platform’s eventual test flight.

As part of the deal, the National Institute of Aerospace Technology, or INTA, which is backed by the Spanish Defence Ministry, will carry out ground trials to enable the integration and growth of the Eurodrone propulsion system.

The Eurodrone program, meant to produce a European-made large UAV, involves the governments of Italy, Spain, Germany and France as well as contractors Leonardo, Dassault Aviation, and Airbus Defense and Space.

“As part of its programme work package, Airbus Defense and Space in Spain will deliver to INTA the power plant — consisting of engine, nacelle and engine mounting system, assembled in its facilities in Seville,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email to Defense News on Nov. 9.

The Eurodrone program has encountered significant delays and challenges since it began almost a decade ago. Nevertheless, the effort received more than $107 million in funding from the EU-run European Defence Industrial Development Program in 2021.

Last year, in a survey carried out by the cross-border journalism cooperative Investigate Europe, the other 23 European Union members were asked if they would consider purchasing the Eurodrone once it became operational. None of the 10 governments that responded showed much or any inclination to join the program or purchase the future platform, the journalism organization found.

“Four member states reject the project, six are waiting to decide and from the Portuguese Ministry of Defense came a similar response to those from the Netherlands and Denmark, that there was no expression of interest from the armed forces,” the survey found.

Also last year, France reaffirmed its intention to buy a total of six Eurodrones, four of which are already on order. The government’s aim is to gradually replace its Reaper drone fleet, set to retire after 2030.

As of now, the Eurodrone is not expected to enter service before 2030.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Nov. 10 to reflect that the group of Eurodrone countries includes Italy, Spain, Germany and France.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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