Europe’s efforts to build its own unmanned aerial vehicle, known as the Eurodrone, got a boost with new funding from the European Union this summer, but that will not save the project from obsolescence. Large drones are going global, rapidly becoming more weaponized and diverse, but European countries are still muddling through with the development of their own indigenous, long-endurance drone.
Even with the additional $115 million that was announced in June through the EU’s European Defense Fund, the large, fully European-made surveillance drones will only be available for delivery to customers by 2029. That is almost 35 years after the first deployment of U.S.-made Predator drones in the early 1990s.
Long-endurance drones remain scarce in Europe, and those that are in operation are imported. As of this year, only five European countries—the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Greece—operate rather small fleets of various versions of either the American MQ-9 Reapers or Israeli Herons. European countries continue to depend on American and Israeli technology for large, long-endurance drones that are operated via satellite links; carry large payloads like sensors, cameras and weapons; and require significant supporting infrastructure. This technological dependence limits European autonomy of action.