AeroVironment and Eurocopter Might Jointly Develop Unmanned Helicopters

 - October 25, 2013, 11:00 AM
Eurocopter flew this “optionally piloted” version of the EC145 in France earlier this year. The EADS subsidiary is now exploring opportunities that might be created by cooperation with AeroVironment. (Photo: Eurocopter)

AeroVironment and Eurocopter are exploring opportunities for cooperation. The potential transatlantic team would combine AeroVironment’s unmanned aircraft technology and systems integration skills and knowledge with Eurocopter’s helicopter technology expertise, a Eurocopter spokesman told AIN.

AeroVironment developed the first hand-launched unmanned aircraft for military surveillance in 1987. Since then, the company claims to have won “every U.S. Department of Defense competition for small UAS programs of record.” It has delivered more than 20,000 new and replacement Puma, Raven and Wasp small unmanned air vehicles to customers within the U.S. and to more than 20 international governments. Last July, the Puma received an FAA type certificate, allowing restricted commercial operations. AeroVironment also produced the Global Observer hydrogen-powered unmanned aircraft. 

“The combination of AeroVironment’s market-leading unmanned technology and unique knowledge with Eurocopter’s world-class helicopter and systems expertise makes a formidable team,” said Roy Minson, senior vice president and general manager of AeroVironment’s unmanned aircraft systems business segment.

Last April, Eurocopter performed a demonstration flight of an “optionally piloted vehicle” (OPV) version of the EC145 in France. The company said that its goal is eventually to employ any of its models in unmanned operations such as automated surveillance and cargo hauling. The cooperation with AeroVironment “will be particularly valuable as Eurocopter defines its unmanned product strategy,” said Clive Schley, Eurocopter’s senior vice president, strategy and company development.

The Eurocopter spokesman told AIN that the cooperation is at an early stage. “Both companies will discuss and evaluate how they might jointly pursue commercial opportunities in military and civil fields throughout the world. A teaming agreement would be the next step in that both companies would formally agree to pursue an opportunity. This agreement is not focusing specifically on U.S. Department of Defense opportunities,” he added.