Airbus Acquires Aerovel, Bolstering Tactical Unmanned Aerial Capabilities

Airbus has completed the acquisition of U.S.-based Aerovel, taking ownership of its prominent unmanned aerial system (UAS), Flexrotor. This strategic acquisition aims to enhance Airbus’s existing portfolio of tactical unmanned solutions, particularly for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions both at sea and over land.

Image: Airbus.

The Flexrotor stands out with its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities, making it a valuable asset for various military and parapublic operations. Mathilde Royer, Head of Strategy and Sustainability at Airbus Helicopters, emphasized the growing global demand for advanced unmanned systems. “Armed forces and parapublic agencies worldwide are increasingly exploring how unmanned aerial systems can bolster their intelligence and surveillance capabilities,” she stated. Royer highlighted that the Flexrotor integrates seamlessly into Airbus’s strategy to expand its UAS offerings, alongside other platforms like the VSR700, to provide enhanced and expanded mission capabilities.

Designed for endurance, the Flexrotor can operate for 12-14 hours in typical ISTAR configurations. Weighing a maximum of 25 kg (55 lbs), it can carry various payloads including electro-optical systems and advanced sensors tailored to specific mission requirements. The Flexrotor’s design allows for autonomous launching and recovery from minimal spaces measuring just 3.7 by 3.7 meters, ideal for expeditionary missions that require a compact operational footprint.

The Flexrotor has been actively deployed in a range of applications, from participating in maritime security exercises supported by the US Department of Defense to parapublic missions like forest fire surveillance and ice navigation. These missions provide critical support in high-threat, GPS-denied environments, enhancing operational effectiveness in challenging conditions.

Aerovel, which will continue to operate from its current location in Bingen, Washington, employs over 30 people and is situated within a well-established UAS ecosystem. This acquisition not only reinforces Airbus’s commitment to leading in the tactical UAS market but also supports the company’s strategy of fostering manned-unmanned teaming, ultimately aiding customers in better monitoring and protecting their communities and critical infrastructures.