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aviation|business|defence|fire|innovation|security|sensor|systems|technology

Airbus Helicopters acquires US uncrewed aircraft company

Aerovel Flexrotor

Aerovel Flexrotor

Photo by Airbus Helicopters

16th January 2024

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Airbus Helicopters, the rotary-wing business of Europe-based global major aerospace and defence group Airbus, has announced that it is acquiring US uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) company Aerovel. Both companies have approved the transaction, which remains subject to regulatory approvals; the deal should finally close during this year. Aerovel will remain a US company and continue to work with the US Department of Defence (DoD), under the Special Security Agreement granted to Airbus.

“We are looking forward to welcoming Aerovel into the Airbus family,” affirmed Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even. “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 [uncrewed helicopter], as well as the work that we have been doing to develop interoperability.”

Aerovel’s flagship product is the Flexrotor small tactical UAS. It takes off and lands vertically, like a helicopter, but once airborne transitions into conventional, wing-borne, level flight, which greatly increases its endurance (in comparison to rotor-only flight). The Flexrotor has a maximum launch weight of 25 kg, and can be fitted with a variety of sensor payloads, including electro-optical, dependent on mission requirements. It is optimised for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance missions, and has an endurance of up to 14 hours, or even longer, in typical operational configurations. It can be operated from ashore or afloat, and needs only an area of 3.7 m by 3.7 m for both launch and recovery.

“Joining forces with Airbus will allow us to scale innovation, accelerate our mission to advanced unmanned aviation, and maintain our unwavering support for the US military and its allies,” highlighted Aerovel CEO Ali Dian. “We are proud to become part of an organisation with a rich legacy of aerospace excellence and we look forward to leveraging our combined strengths to define the future of autonomous systems.”

Because of US DoD support, including contracted deployments in a number of maritime security exercises, the Flexrotor is mission-proven. It has demonstrated its capability of working in environments that are harsh, high-threat, and in which satellite navigation systems are inoperable (due to jamming). But the Flexrotor can also be used for civilian missions, such as forest fire surveillance and ice navigation (helping guide ships through ice flows).

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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