The first full-scale model of a European Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone was revealed during a ceremony at the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show. According to its developers, the primary mission of the drone will be intelligence gathering, surveillance target acquisition and reconnaissance. However, the European Defence Agency also noted that de drone will be able to carry various payloads and facilitate precision weapons engagement. Entry-into-service is planned for the mid-2020s.
There has been a long-standing desire by the EU for more autonomy with regard to its military industry. Current US MQ-9 Reaper drones that are, or will be, deployed by Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Belgium are dependent on US for spare parts, maintenance, and satellite systems. That is why the EU has supported the development of its own arms industry and technology through the European Defense Fund. Drones and other unmanned systems are part of this multi-billion dollar program, as was announced in March 2018.
The EU’s ambition to develop its own drones lacks a strong EU position on how their use should be regulated, in particular when deployed outside the battlefield. Some expert have already warned for counter-terror wars fought by EU member states, in which these drones will likely play a large role. Concerns regarding potential misuse and the undermining of legal principles have been voiced by the European Parliament in resolutions and a Draft Common Position on Armed Drones, as well as by EFAD members. These concerns, and possible steps countries can take, are also summarized in EFAD’s Call to Action.