US unmanned air vehicle (UAV) specialist Freewing Aerial Robotics is facing break-up after running out of funding for its Scorpion UAV, which uniquely combines a pivoting wing with a tilt-body airframe.


According to Freewing president and chief executive Hugh Schmittle the company's assets will be sold off if investors or an outright buyer cannot be found.

Freewing has spent nearly $8 million in outside financing and NASA contract awards over the past 12 years, taking its Scorpion 100-60 and 60-25 military and civil UAVs through to flight testing, but needs a further $7.5 million to enter volume production.

Schmittle has hired Washington DC-based Dealy Strategy Group to seek a buyer, though Freewing's owners, he says, are prepared to sell its assets, including two operational prototypes, tooling and the Scorpion's design and patents.

The owners include Schmittle, Brazil's Avibras and, with a $2million stake, EADS, which retains European distribution rights for the Scorpion until 2003, though it is not prepared to invest further.

"The most likely way to get the company properly financed is through an acquisition," says Schmittle, while Dealy's Jeff Gurganus says Freewing has generated "moderate" interest from aerospace companies and "significant" interest from other UAV and sensor specialists.

Schmittle claims the Scorpion could break even within three years should it enter production. It is targeted at civil remote sensing and ordnance clearing, powerline and pipeline monitoring.

Source: Flight International