AeroVironment, Eurocopter to explore collaboration

Oct. 23, 2013 at 9:11 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Unmanned aircraft maker AeroVironment will collaborate with Eurocopter to explore new markets and develop new capabilities.

The two companies signed a cooperative agreement to look into greater opportunities for expanding their respective military and commercial product portfolios. Announcement of the deal was made Wednesday at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting.

"This cooperation will be particularly valuable as Eurocopter defines its unmanned product strategy, building on the success of our first unmanned flights with the EC145 helicopter this year," Eurocopter's Clive Sichley said.

Sichley, Eurocopter's senior vice president, strategy and company development, said AeroVironment's extensive experience with unmanned aerial systems development and production would enable Eurocopter to understand customer requirements.

Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter group is a division of EADS and employs about 22,000 people worldwide.

AeroVironment has been delivering to end-users reliable solutions working effectively in harsh operating environments, Sichley said.

That, he added, "makes us uniquely positioned to understand customers' requirements and to determine future market trends.

Analysts say global demand for unmanned aerial systems is rising steadily, with usage in civilian and defense fields set likely to expand worldwide.

"The combination of AeroVironment's market leading unmanned technology and unique knowledge with Eurocopter's world-class helicopter and systems expertise makes a formidable team," said Roy Minson, senior vice president and general manager of AeroVironment's Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment.

He said the cooperation agreement creates "the opportunity for both companies to explore expanding into new markets and developing new capabilities to meet future customer needs."

This cooperation will be particularly valuable as Eurocopter defines its unmanned product strategy, building on the success of first unmanned flights with the EC145 helicopter this year.

AeroVironment developed the first hand-launched unmanned aircraft for military surveillance in 1987. Since that time, the company says, it has won every U.S. Department of Defense competition for small UAS programs of record, and has delivered more than 20,000 new and replacement small unmanned air vehicles to customers in the United States and to more than 20 international governments.

AeroVironment has also integrated its "secure digital data link" communications architecture into air, sea and land vehicles, including manned and unmanned airplanes and helicopters. The system enables control of the UAS from those platforms and provides access to the information they produce.

Eurocopter offers a comprehensive civil and military helicopter range, with more than 11,780 rotorcraft in service across 148 countries. Eurocopter helicopters account for 33 percent of the worldwide civil and parapublic fleet.

Eurocopter's ability to integrate unmanned flight capabilities into its helicopter family was validated this year by an optionally piloted vehicle demonstration program. The demonstration and test used an unmanned EC145 to deploy an external sling load and perform a representative observation mission.

AeroVironment designs, develops, produces, operates and supports UAS and electric transportation.

Agencies of the U.S. Department of Defense and allied military services use the company's electric-powered, hand-launched unmanned aircraft systems for real-time, airborne reconnaissance, surveillance and communication.

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