Brussels Airport enters drone activity with 50% startup stake

Brussels Airport DronePort AAM

If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em. That, apparently, is the attitude of Brussels Airport, which has taken a 50% stake in a specialized service startup that provides safe and efficient operation of the very drones currently banned in the air around Belgium’s busiest aviation hub.

Brussels Airport Company, which operates the eponymous aerial platform, announced it had taken the 50% position in SkeyDrones, a company offering software-based services that help drone operators and authorities manage safe and efficient drone flights. Not coincidentally, SkeyDrones is also an affiliate of skeyes, the air traffic control group that assures passenger planes in and out of Brussels Airport are taking off and landing in peaceful coexistence.

The new corporate ménage à trois aims to permit Brussels Airport Company and skeye to fully tap into the swiftly ascending business potentials of drones, while still keeping that out of the way of their primary commercial airline activity.

Brussels Airport says its objectives in teaming up with skeyes in the startup is to pursue drone applications like delivery and future air taxi services in ways fully compatible with its main passenger air transport business. By pooling their knowledge, expertise, and experience in operating one of Europe’s busiest aerial platforms, Brussels Airport and skeyes think they can more rapidly find the secret sauce of fully integrating airplanes and UAV into the same safe airspaces – with SkeyDrones being central to that.

“Brussels Airport’s investment in SkeyDrone is strategic and goes beyond investing in drone know-how and technology,” said Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company. “It is an investment in co-creating the future of unmanned air traffic… With SkeyDrone, we can fully explore, develop, and commercialize drone management systems and drone services that can be used on a daily basis by clients in various industries.”

It won’t be a marriage of absolute equals, however. Though Brussels Airport Company takes a 50% equity stake in the drone startup, it will possess exactly one share short of half, leaving skeye with de facto majority control. But despite that apparent corporate wariness of sharing complete decision-making power, it seems evident skeye welcomes the deeper pockets the Brussels Airport Company brings to the effort of developing SkeyDrone’s UAV business more rapidly.

Drones are becoming omnipresent in the airspace, and it is our task to let them take their place safely among the existing air traffic, says skeyes CEO Johan Decuyper. “As users of the airspace, airports know better than anyone the challenges this brings. skeyes and SkeyDrone therefore attach great importance to Brussels Airport Company’s insights into developments concerning drones and the needs of airports to deal with this new reality. By participating in SkeyDrone, we can now count on their direct input. skeyes has set up these kinds of partnerships for several areas of its operation, fully in line with our strategy.”

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