After a decade of rapid growth fuelled by war spending, AeroVironment is busy creating markets for new applications of a portfolio of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) spanning from hand-launched models to atmospheric satellites.
The battery-powered Puma AE is one of only two UAVs to have received restricted-category type certificates by the US Federal Aviation Administration, allowing it to operate in Arctic airspace.
AeroVironment is now working to develop a new commercial application for the Puma in the oil and gas sector, says vice-president of investor relations Steve Gitlin, who declines to give further detail.
The US Army has acquired thousands of versions of the Puma and the smaller RQ-11 Raven, but deliveries have slowed as AeroVironment and other small UAS suppliers approach fulfilling the army’s requirement.
AeroVironment is now focusing on delivering sensor and software upgrades for the Raven and Puma fleets, including a new gimbaled sensor that has recently rolled out on the former.
Meanwhile, the army’s interest in another AeroVironment product is growing. In one quarter alone last year, AeroVironment received $44 million worth of orders from the Department of Defense for the Switchblade. AeroVironment classes it as a tactical missile, which is land-launched and actively steered to a target by an operator using streaming video.
AeroVironment also is waiting as the army develops a potential requirement for a very small new UAV, which could have perch-and-stare or other capabilities, Gitlin says.
In the long term, the company continues to develop the Global Observer, a hydrogen-fuelled, hybrid-electric, high-altitude UAV.
Last February, AeroVironment announced at Aero India a new partnership with Lockheed Martin to market the Global Observer in international markets. Lockheed was selected to provide help with systems integration and sensors, as well as access to the company’s broad network of international customers, Gitlin says.