Peter La Franchi/CANBERRA

Australian unmanned air vehicle (UAV) manufacturer Aerosonde is to be bought by Australian Platinum Mines, which plans to exit the resources sector and re-emerge in mid-May as Aerosonde Holdings. Some A$5 million ($2.6 million) will subsequently be raised via a public offering to support the setting up of a UAV-based global commercial weather monitoring system.


Australian Platinum chairman Wayne Bos says the Aerosonde's "small size, high-endurance and relatively low-unit cost is unmatched by any known UAV", giving "a clear market advantage in remote areas and mid-ocean operations, military and civilian reconnaissance and data collection in severe weather, such as tropical cyclones".

Aerosonde had been targeted by Saab, which planned to take a 40% stake through its Saab Pacific subsidiary, but the deal collapsed in February. The Swedish manufacturer is nevertheless still pursuing a commercial relationship under which "militarised" Aerosonde Mk2I and developmental Mk3 UAVs could be offered for tactical surveillance and reconnaissance.

Australian Platinum is listed on the Sydney stock exchange, so that the take-over, subject to due diligence and shareholder approval, will fulfil Aerosonde's two-year quest for a listing.

The Australian Platinum deal was engineered by Tomorrow Ltd, which has also taken a 42.5% stake in the mining company, and which will lend Aerosonde A$1 million, convertible into shares in the restructured company. Some 25 million shares will also be offered on the Sydney exchange from May to raise the A$5 million to support Aerosonde's planned weather monitoring system, which could see up to 250 UAVs in flight at any one time replacing weather balloons, providing constant mid-atmosphere sampling.

Aerosonde had sales of A$3.38 million last year, with an operating profit before exceptionals of A$252,000 and net assets worth A$10 million.

Source: Flight International