Airbus buys firm behind futuristic unmanned spy drone with supreme capabilities

Airbus Helicopters and Aerovel flexrotor drone
Dianne Bond / Airbus

Airbus Helicopters has completed a takeover of Washington-based long-range robotic aircraft company, Aerovel, and acquired its game-changing unmanned drone.  

In a statement issued on January 15, 2024, Airbus said an agreement had been reached for the acquisition of Aerovel and its unmanned aerial system, Flexrotor. 

Flexrotor is able to perform a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) and can then transition into transition into horizontal wing-borne flight.  

The drone can be used by armed forces to carry out intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions, and protect military bases with enemy alert capabilities.  

“We are looking forward to welcoming Aerovel into the Airbus family. 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,” Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters, said. 

Even added: “Aerovel’s expertise in autonomous flight technology will undoubtedly complement our UAS development with the VSR700 (unmanned reconnaissance helicopter), as well as the work that we have been doing to develop interoperability.”  

With a maximum launch weight of 25kg, Flexrotor can execute missions for more than 12-14 hours in a typical operational configuration. 

The drone only needs a launch/land area of 12 by 12ft and can operate from both land and sea with a real-time camera.  

Flexrotor has already been used by the United States (US) Navy so is already mission-proved under challenging conditions. 

“Joining forces with Airbus will allow us to scale innovation, accelerate our mission to advance unmanned aviation, and maintain our unwavering support for the US military and its allies. We are proud to become part of an organization with a rich legacy of aerospace excellence and we look forward to leveraging our combined strengths to define the future of autonomous systems. It will also be a great tribute to our Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Tad McGeer, who has spent the last 30 years committed to delivering innovative unmanned products,” Ali Dian, CEO of Aerovel, said. 

As well as within military environments the drone can also be used for forest fire surveillance or to air with ice navigation. 

According to Aerovel, Flexrotor can also be used for a variety of other government uses, security operations and law enforcement. 

Aerovel will remain a US-owned company and continue collaboration with the US Department of Defense under Airbus’ Special Security Agreement (SSA).   

The acquisition has been approved by the relevant bodies of both companies. It remains subject to regulatory approvals, as well as other customary conditions. Transaction closing is expected in 2024. 

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