The two sides have inked a memorandum of understanding and are in final negotiations to complete the deal, Whitby said.
Deliveries of the machines, which Airbus call High Altitude Pseudo-Satellites, are expected to take place over the next 15 months to 18 months. The British have already conducted flight tests on an earlier, smaller version of the Zephyr they acquired from Airbus.
The Zepyhr holds the world record for flight duration of 14 days and Whitby said the vehicle comfortably outperforms solar-powered rivals
The Zephyr's batteries are fueled by the sun during the day and stored energy is used during the night to power the machine's two propellers.
The new Zephyr 8 with its 28-meter wingspan covered in solar panels is expected to fly for the first time next summer and is capable of carrying a 5-kilogram surveillance or communications payload. A larger and better performing variant is already on the drawing board. Known for the moment as Zepyhr 9, the vehicle could be ready for flight in about two-and-a-half years, said Airbus executives.
Airbus is discussing with Singapore various launch and landing options for Zephyr including the use of an "enormous barge." The two sides are also looking at possible joint development of a Zephyr-specific maritime radar.
The company is also in discussions with the German military and police about studying the communications capabilities of Zephyr and is engaged with the US Department of Defense and other agencies investigating possible use of the vehicle.
Zephyr was originally developed by British company QinetiQ before Airbus purchased the program.