Airbus will set up a regional base of its new Airbus Aerial unit in Singapore, adding to its existing locations in Atlanta and Munich.

The nascent service is initially focused on using small UAVs for commercial imagery applications, with insurance being a promising market. It also has applications in a range of frontier markets, such as insurance, automated cargo handling and the inspection of key infrastructure, such as power lines.

“We have chosen Singapore as the headquarters for our Asia-Pacific operations because it is a well-established regional hub with excellent connectivity to key countries such as Australia, India, Japan, and China,” says Jana Rosenmann, head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus.

“It is also a great centre for innovation and potential partnerships, enjoying strong support from the local government for start-ups as well as the development of smart technologies.”

Rosenmann says Airbus Aerial has already worked with the insurance sector following the 2017 hurricanes that affected the southeastern USA. UAVs operated by Airbus Aerial were able to provide property damage information quickly, thus helping “several major insurance companies” expedite claims.

Airbus Aerial says that such work draws on its ability to combine data from UAVs, satellites and high altitude aircraft.

Dirk Hoke, chief executive officer of Airbus Defence & Space, says that while the commercial applications for UAVs in populated areas are virtually boundless, regulation is going to be a major stumbling block.

He believes that regulators need to create robust, well-considered frameworks for aspiring commercial UAV firms.

Airbus Aerial will be led by Bernard Leong, who was previously with Singapore Post.

Get all the coverage from the Singapore air show here