Acubed, the Silicon Valley-based innovation arm of European aerospace giant Airbus, will layoff an undisclosed number of employees this month as the coronavirus crisis continues to ravage the airline industry.
“As a result of the financial impact on our customers and industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbus has had to assess the impact on its operations and activities globally, which includes Acubed, its innovation center in Silicon Valley,” an Airbus spokesperson said in an email to The Drone Girl. “As a result, we confirm that we will unfortunately have to reduce the number of project-focused employees as well as support staff by the end of June.”
News that Airbus would be exploring restructuring plans and implement job cuts across the entire company broke in mid-May. Affected employees specific to Acubed were notified about their positions being cut at the end of May. A spokesperson for Airbus added that some employees left “voluntarily,” but could not provide specific numbers on employee headcount, or on voluntary or involuntary departures.
Airbus is the world’s largest airliner manufacturer, but they also have their hands in drones. Acubed was created under Airbus in 2015 as a “Silicon Valley innovation center” intended to pursue innovation projects. Those projects have included a range of new ventures, such as Ethereum blockchain for the aerospace industry and helicopter taxis.
But a huge chunk of Acubed’s focus had been devoted to drone-related projects. In 2015, Acubed launched Vahana, a self-piloted electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. The Vahana project lasted four years, taking its final flight at the end of 2019.
Airbus has also had its hands in UTM through a project called Airbus UTM (formerly known as Project Altiscope). Through that project, Airbus is designing and building critical infrastructure necessary for drone traffic management through research and simulations. Airbus UTM’s vision for what the future of drone air traffic control might look like were detailed in a 2018 white paper arguing for a decentralized system of air traffic management (as opposed to the centralized system used in the U.S. for manned air traffic).
Airbus is also a big player in Remote ID. The Federal Aviation Administration announced in early May that Airbus would be one of eight companies to weigh in on the technological requirements around implementing an electronic license plate system for drones, alongside other big players like Amazon and Wing.
And Airbus was one of the early companies to be a LAANC service provider in the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) project.
“Acubed is recognized as having brought crucial contributions to Airbus, in particular in the fields of urban air mobility, autonomous technologies, digital design and manufacturing and unmanned traffic management, and it will continue to build the future of flight in the foreseeable future,” an Airbus spokesperson said.