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Army project could be Orolia's lever to grow DOD work

Orolia's goal was simple when it started pursuing a contract to design a new rescue beacon for Army pilots and air crews.

“We wanted to be one of the four selected to build a prototype,” said CEO Jean-Yves Courtois. “That would demonstrate our ability to be a trustworthy supplier.”

The company has been intent on penetrating deeper into the U.S. defense market as a prime and two years ago moved its management team to Lanham, Maryland from France. A majority of its U.S. defense business is from subcontracts with large integrators who need Orolia’s positioning, navigation and timing technology for command and control and ISR systems.

But the rescue beacon job would be as a prime, so getting into the pilot would be a big step toward that goal.

As they worked on their device, they quickly realized they had the capability to win against the other three competitors: Boeing, STS International and BriarTek Inc.

And that is what Orolia has done. They landed the $34 million Personnel Recovery Support System contract to supply rescue beacons to the Army.

The contract begins with fielding testing of the company’s solution before it moves on to full production. The expectation is that Orolia will eventually supply as many as 40,000 devices, he said.

This award follows a 2016 contract to supply 16,000 personal locator beacons to the Coast Guard. But the Army product is different from the ground up, Courtois said.

The device for the Army is much more rugged, smaller and lighter. It also more security features such as the ability to transmit the location of a downed pilot over a secure signal.

“The device doesn’t come with a pre-determined waveform,” Courtois said. “The Army has complete control.”

That means that the frequency can be changed depending on the mission and the location. This can be done easily because it is software defined.

Orolia also had to make it smaller and lighter so the device can be kept in a pocket in the pilots clothing and not impact how the uniform fits or restrict pilot movement.

A pilot or aircrew personnel simply push a button to activate the signal, which bounces off a satellite and then back down to those who can rescue them.

“The idea is that you just don’t leave anyone behind,” he said.

As the work with the Army moves forward, Orolia will also use the contract to pursue business with other parts of the military. The contract can be used by the other services.

“We expect this to extend our reach across the market,” Courtois said.

The company also is establishing itself as an independent U.S. company with a proxy board to separate it from its European ownership. That process will be complete this summer, he said.

Orolia also recently announced its pending acquisition of Talen-X to bring in more secure positing, navigation and timing technology. Talen-X also has a facility clearance.

The acquisition and the Army win “open up new possibilities for us,” Courtois said.

The company expects to hit about $140 million in revenue this year and has 450 employees with 40 percent of them based in the U.S.

“We are going to leverage these opportunities as much as we can to demonstrate our capabilities as a supplier,” he said.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Apr 11, 2018 at 9:30 AM

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