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Airbus Helicopters to acquire US UAS firm Aerovel

French company Airbus Helicopters will acquire Washington State-based Aerovel and its Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), Flexrotor, as part of a strategy to strengthen its portfolio of tactical unmanned solutions. The purchase price has not been disclosed.

Flexrotor is a small tactical Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) UAS designed for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions at sea and over land. It has a maximum launch weight of 25 kg and has been designed for ISTAR missions for more than 12-14 hours in a typical operational configuration.

“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,” said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “Aerovel’s expertise in autonomous flight technology will undoubtedly complement our UAS development with the VSR700, as well as the work that we have been doing to develop interoperability.”

The Flexrotor can integrate different types of payloads including an electro-optical system and advanced sensors to suit customers’ unique mission needs. With the ability to autonomously launch and recover from either land or sea, requiring only a 12 by 12 ft (13.4m2) area for launch and recovery, the Flexrotor is ideal for expeditionary missions requiring minimal footprint, says Airbus Helicopters.

With the support of the US Department of Defense (DoD), and contracted deployment in a variety of maritime security exercises, the Flexrotor has been proven to be a force-multiplier on operations in harsh, high-threat, GPS-denied environments, says Airbus Helicopters.

The Flexrotor can also be used for parapublic missions such as forest fire surveillance (providing firefighters with critical images day or night) and ice navigation (helping guide naval vessels through ice in the Arctic ocean).

Aerovel, based in Bingen, Washington, will remain a US-owned company and continue collaboration with the US DoD under Airbus’ Special Security Agreement (SSA). The acquisition has been approved by the relevant bodies of both companies but remains subject to regulatory approvals. Completion is expected in 2024.

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