LONDON — In a move that could lead to the bifurcation of Europe’s unmanned aircraft industry, EADS/Cassidian and Alenia Aeronautica have signed an agreement to explore potential cooperation in the realm of medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAVs and unmanned combat air vehicles.

The move, if it goes beyond the investigative phase, would effectively replicate an arrangement BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation have struck. The latter undertaking is tied to a specific program, however — the Franco-British effort to cooperate on a future MALE unmanned aircraft — whereas the EADS-Alenia arrangement so far lacks a specific program outlet.

In a joint statement, EADS and Alenia say they “will analyze the requirements expressed by each of their respective governments in the [unmanned aircraft] sector with the objective to create a strategic partnership and to expand their global UAS market share.”

EADS in particular has been trying to build up its unmanned aircraft activities. Efforts to get government support for the Talarion unmanned aircraft concept, however, have failed to gain traction, with the German air force, for instance, more focused on near-term fielding requirements by buying off-the-shelf equipment. EADS says Talarion could fly in 2015 and be fielded in 2018.

EADS also has done some work in the unmanned combat aircraft realm, with the Barracuda demonstrator and its follow-on, the Agile UAV project.

Alenia already has developed the Sky-Y unmanned aircraft and its sister, Selex Galileo, has sold the Falco unmanned aircraft to Pakistan.

“The UAS sector has a strategic importance for the future of Alenia Aeronautica’s programs and we are convinced that this agreement will allow us to become even more competitive in this quickly expanding market,” Alenia CEO Giuseppe Giordo says.