Evergreen Helicopters, a subsidiary of Evergreen International in McMinnville, Ore., is laying the groundwork to tap into the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market, according to David Rath, Evergreen Helicopters president. Here at Heli-Expo he told HAI Convention News that Evergreen has signed a letter of intent with Bell Helicopter for three Eagle Eye tiltrotor UAVs, which the company would receive after Bell fills its contracts with other customers.
These aren’t the only UAVs Evergreen is considering. “We’re researching many different UAV airframes,” he said. “We see a huge market for UAVs all over the world, for customers needing surveillance.” Evergreen’s one-year-old UAV division is talking to equipment manufacturers and customers, and doing some real-world testing as well.
“We’re working on cooperative arrangements with the manufacturers,” Rath explained. “It doesn’t make sense for us to buy UAVs and then look for a mission. Like other aircraft, you have to fit the best airframe to the mission,” he said.
Forest services, for example, could use the unmanned vehicles to search for fires and monitor ones that have started. In addition, electric companies could inspect powerlines and oil companies could check pipelines. “We think a lot of our same helicopter customers are potential UAV users,” Rath said.
Forecast International of Newtown, Conn., expects more than 9,000 UAVs will be sold by 2014. The Teal Group of Fairfax, Va., is even more bullish about the market, projecting the sale of 18,000 by 2015. Both companies forecast a 10-year market value of $13 billion.