Airbus Helicopters is to buy USA-based military drone developer Aerovel and its Flexrotor drone.
The acquisition, which is expected to close later this year remains subject to regulatory approvals with the Washington state-based company remaining US-owned.
The Flexrotor is a small tactical VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) drone designed for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance missions at sea and over land.
It has a maximum launch weight of 25kg, can be airborne for up to 14 hours in a tactical configuration and can carry different types of payloads including an electro-optical system and different sensors. The drone can be autonomously launched and recovered from either land or sea from just a 12 by 12ft area,
The Flexrotor has been developed with support from the US Department of Defense (DoD) for expeditionary missions in harsh, high-threat, GPS-denied environments. According to Aerovel it could also be used for parapublic missions such as forest fire surveillance and ice navigation.
Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters said, “This strategic acquisition aligns with our vision to expand our UAS offering and respond to a growing customer demand worldwide for additional mission capabilities such as manned-unmanned teaming.
“Aerovel’s expertise in autonomous flight technology will undoubtedly complement our UAS development with the VSR700, as well as the work that we have been doing to develop interoperability.”
Ali Dian, CEO of Aerovel said, “Joining forces with Airbus will allow us to scale innovation, accelerate our mission to advance unmanned aviation, and maintain our unwavering support for the US military and its allies.”
Aerovel which was founded in 2006 by engineer Tad McGeer and has around 25 employees.