In recent years, dozens of drone development projects have attracted hundreds of millions of euros from EU public research funds with little accountability and scarce political oversight. This article relates the ongoing exponential growth of the drone industry in Europe with the vast amounts of EU public research funding channelled to drone research. These projects typically configure partnerships that are neither strictly public, nor strictly private, and it is precisely a combination of their hybrid nature with the centrality of technologial expertise that makes them less visible. This partial invisibility is particularly relevant in the context of a dual‐use technology that enables new forms of surveillance, poses societal challenges, and can be used as a lethal weapon. Beyond providing short‐term responses to specific problems, we argue that these tactics are largely aimed at fostering a common EU security and defence research & development culture in a time of international security uncertainty.