A DJI Phantom 2 drone controlled by drone videographer Curt Walton hovers to shoot aerial video above a multimillion-dollar home for sale in the hills above Saratoga, Calif., on Feb. 25, 2016. Federal aviation regulators issued long-awaited commercial drone rules on Tuesday. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

Airbus launching drone subsidiary in Atlanta

French aerospace manufacturer Airbus is starting an Atlanta-based commercial drone subsidiary.

The wholly-owned subsidiary is called Airbus Aerial, aiming to sell its services to industries such as insurance, oil and gas, utilities, agriculture, forestry and emergency management, by helping them get data captured from above by using drones or satellites. 

The drone and satellite industries are filled with many small players and some large companies. Airbus aims to take advantage of its existing satellite business, build its own expertise in the drone business and “bring together lots of different companies” to provide options for drone and satellite data and images. 

For example, Airbus plans to contract with other businesses for drone vehicles, drone flights in areas where it doesn’t have a presence, additional satellite imagery or data analysis when necessary. 

The focus will be on “providing services to large corporations who want to leverage small drones, satellites… but aren’t necessarily experts in aerospace technology,” said Airbus Aerial president Jesse Kallman. 

For a large insurance company or a state emergency management organization, Kallman said: “Say there’s a large weather event in the state of Georgia. We would be able to go in and say, ‘Which areas are you interested in learning more [about]? And then we essentially will bring together whatever the right tools are to accomplish the job, using satellites, using drones.” 

He said high-resolution imagery can help insurance companies determine damage to customers’ roofs and estimate costs for roofing material after a hailstorm or tornado, for example. 

Airbus Aerial is “the first major direct presence by Airbus,” Kallman said. Another Airbus subsidiary called Satair, is an aircraft parts management company that has offices in Peachtree City but is based in Europe. 

Kallman has a degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech and worked at the Federal Aviation Administration on the integration of drones into the national airspace and at a drone software startup. 

He called Atlanta “a really underrated location for new startups, new tech growth. It has a great ecosystem of large Fortune 500 companies, which will be our primary customers and partners.” He said the Atlanta airport is also “a really great thing for us” to reach Airbus headquarters and teams in Europe and to move around the country. 

Kallman declined to say how many employees the business has or how large it will grow, but said Airbus Aerial’s current offices are in Ponce City Market and the company is hiring. He said the types of positions he plans to hire include drone pilots, drone vehicle engineers, software developers, geospatial data development and data analytics. 

Airbus announced the creation of the new unit on Wednesday at a drone conference in Dallas.

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