The Aerovel Flexrotor is a compact drone unit designed for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions.

Airbus Buys U.S. Drone Developer

May 8, 2024
The Aerovel Flexrotor unmanned VTOL system is a tactical device for defense, law enforcement, and safety programs that fills a role in Airbus’ UAS expansion plans.

Airbus Helicopters completed its purchase of Aerovel, developer of an unmanned vertical takeoff and landing system used for tactical missions. No price has been reported for the acquisition of the company and its Flexrotor compact drone unit designed for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions at sea and over land.

When the acquisition was announced earlier this year Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even said Aerovel's expertise in autonomous flight technology will “complement our UAS development with the VSR700” – an unmanned aerial system (UAS) currently under development for naval tactical use, and search and rescue – “and bring to bear a highly capable autonomous platform in times of heightened threats.  as well as the work that we have been doing to develop interoperability.”

Aerovel CEO Ali Dian said the takeover the company to scale up innovation to support the U.S. and allied nations’ defense programs.

“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,” Dian said.

The 30-employee firm will continue to design and manufacture the Flexrotor at Bingen, Washington.

Weighing 55 lbs. (25 kg), the Flexrotor is developed for missions ranging from 12 to 14 hours in a typical operational configuration. The unit can integrate different types of payloads, including an electro-optical system and advanced sensors to suit customers’ unique mission needs.

The UAS can autonomously launch and recover from either land or sea in an area of no more than 12x12 ft (3.7x3.7 m), making it suitable for expeditionary missions that call for a minimal footprint.

The Flexrotor also is “mission-proven” in contracted exercises with the U.S. Dept. of Defense in “harsh, high-threat, GPS-denied environments.” It also is being operated for parapublic missions like forest fire surveillance, and can be used in applications like ice navigation, law enforcement, and border patrol.

"We see more and more armed forces and parapublic agencies around the world looking to investigate how unmanned aerial systems can strengthen their intelligence and surveillance capabilities,” stated Mathilde Royer, head of strategy and sustainability at Airbus Helicopters.

“The Flexrotor, as a vertical takeoff and landing UAS, fits into our strategy to expand our UAS offerings,” Royer added.

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