Airbus acquires unmanned vehicle manufacturer

Aerovel's Flexrotor uncrewed aircraft system prior to takeoff.

Aerovel's Flexrotor uncrewed aircraft system prior to takeoff. Courtesy of Aerovel.

Airbus' helicopter division is bringing in a platform that can shift to wing-borne flight while in motion.

Airbus has acquired a U.S.-headquartered maker of uncrewed aircraft systems as part of a push to further build out the portfolio of tactical UAS products.

Aerovel and its flagship vehicle called Flexrotor will become a part of Airbus' helicopter division through the transaction announced Monday, which is subject to regulatory approvals and other closing conditions. Both companies expect to complete the move later this year.

Bingen, Washington-headquartered Aerovel will also remain a U.S.-owned company and continue to work with the U.S. military under Airbus’ special security agreement with the federal government.

Flexrotor is designed as a tail-sitting, vertical-takeoff-and-landing UAS that shifts to wing-borne flight with the help of a rotor system fitted in the forward fuselage.

The vehicle also is built to fly for up to 12-to-14 hours at a time for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance missions at sea and over land. Aerovel touts some of the use cases as including forest fire surveillance, ice navigation, and in GPS-denied environments where a minimal footprint is required.

Aerovel was founded by Tad McGeer, who also formerly was co-founder and president of the drone maker Insitu that Boeing acquired in 2008.