Airbus Helicopters is close to completing its acquisition of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) developer Aerovel.

Speaking at the Sea-Air-Space conference near Washington DC on 9 April, Airbus Helicopters’ executive director of Coast Guard affairs and UAS advisor Ron Tremain told FlightGlobal the acquisition should close in early May. The agreement is currently undergoing an antitrust review.

The companies disclosed the pending deal on 15 January.

Aerovel Flexrotor

Source: Pat Host/FlightGlobal

Aerovel’s Flexrotor on display at the Sea-Air-Space event near Washington DC on 9 April 2024

Tremain says Airbus Helicopters is interested in Aerovel’s small tactical vertical take-off and landing Flexrotor, not only for an entrant into the market for Group 2 and 3 UASs, but to address an emerging need for a vehicle that can perform manned-unmanned teaming operations.

Airbus Helicopters plans to offer the Flexrotor, which has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 25kg (55lb), in all competitions for which it is eligible.

The Pentagon classifies a Group 2 UAS as having an MTOW of 10-25kg, with Group 3 vehicles at up to 600kg.

Tremain declines to say how much Airbus Helicopters is paying for Aerovel.

“Airbus is really excited to welcome into the family and make Flexrotor a dynamic component to our already impressive offerings in the aviation world,” he adds.

The Flexrotor is designed for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance missions, boasting an endurance of more than 12-14h in a typical operational configuration. It can autonomously launch and recover from either land or sea, requiring only a 3.7 x 3.7m (12 x 12ft) area from which to deploy.


Source: Aerovel

Powered by a two-stroke engine, Aerovel’s Flexrotor UAS can fly at 77kt (140km/h), has a range of 1,080nm (2,000km) and a maximum flight-endurance exceeding 30h, according to Aerovel

Tremain says the Flexrotor has been demonstrated multiple times from US Navy and US Coast Guard vessels, operating from very small areas without the need for a helideck.

This, he says, opens up the Flexrotor’s addressable market as it can operate from ships as small as patrol boats and provides users with an aviation asset they previously could not accommodate.

Tremain says the Flexrotor can also be used in land operations as the system is comprised of a laptop computer, antenna and aircraft, and requires minimal personnel to operate.

Aerovel was founded by Tad McGeer, who also helped found Insitu, a company subsequently purchased by Boeing in 2008. Both companies are located in Bingen in Washington State.