WASHINGTON — The U.S. defense division of European aerospace company Airbus said it launched a new business unit aimed at the surging market for military drones.

Airbus U.S. Space and Defense on Nov. 9 unveiled the creation of its uncrewed aircraft systems office, which will be led by Brian Zarchin, a retired U.S. Army aviator. The new group builds upon Airbus’ previous success with its Zephyr drone, a solar-powered aircraft that stayed aloft for 64 days above 60,000 feet during testing over Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.

“With ongoing great power competition, it’s critical that we do our part to help deter threats and, in crisis or conflict, present our adversaries with multiple dilemmas,” Zarchin said in a statement. “Our new business line is laser-focused on helping the DoD solve its toughest UAS challenges, from surface to stratosphere.”

The Department of Defense is increasingly interested in unmanned aerial systems and their battlefield applications, including intelligence gathering, targeting assistance and ordnance delivery.

The department in August rolled out its Replicator initiative, calling for thousands of attritable systems in the field in the next 18 to 24 months to counter perceived Chinese capabilities. Additional details have been scant. U.S. Army leadership has suggested the service could contribute one-way attack drones and ground-based robotics.

“The future battlespace is here, and our team is ensuring the warfighter is equipped with technology that allows them to make informed decisions to counter the threat,” Rob Geckle, chairman and CEO of Airbus U.S. Space and Defense, said in a statement. “And while the Zephyr stratospheric platform is our foundational UAS program, we envision multiple UAS solutions supporting a range of customer missions and operational needs.”

Airbus is the 12th largest defense contractor in the world when ranked by defense-related revenue, according to Defense News’s Top 100 list. The company, which lists its headquarters in the Netherlands and its main office in France, earned a little more than $12 billion in defense-related revenue in 2022.

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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