Steve Gitlin, Vice President of Corporate Marketing Strategy, gave an excellent update on exactly what the company develops and where they are headed. As you may recall from last years presentation, battery charging stations where being developed due to all the new electric cars that were emerging. New electric powered cars have now been introduced by Nissan (The Leaf), Mitsubishi (The i Car), Chevrolet (The Volt), as well as BMW. All but Chevrolet has contracted with AeroVironment exclusively to develop home and industrial charging stations. These are referred to as Posi Charge industrial electric vehicle fast charge systems.
What drew the most interest in the presentation was the facet of the company that develops hand held unmanned aircraft, or drones as we have come to know. The Department of Defense uses these for low altitude reconnaissance on the battlefield. These units can be carried into battle and launched by throwing into the air and controlling from a hand held (game boy) type device. There are several small aircraft known as the Wasp, the Raven, the Puma, and the Switchblade. Typically, they fly at a speed of 25-50 knots with a varying degree of range. For instance the Wasp can operate about 45 minutes with a max range of 5-10 kilometers. The Raven can fly 90 minutes with a 10-15k range, and the Puma can fly 2 hours with a 15-20k range. Each carries infra red cameras with a 5 mega pixel resolution. The newest addition to these drone aircraft is the Switchblade, which can carry an explosive payload with a 20k range and be recharged off a Humvee. Steve says the military uses the slogan “The ability to find, fire, and finish an enemy is the essence of combat”. It seems like AeroVironment has succeeded in meeting that criteria.
The very latest addition to the unmanned aircraft is being developed for law enforcement. The new “Qube” is a rugged and reliable aircraft that is used for first responders. It can be carried in a patrol car and deployed on site when needed for surveillance or observation of suspects as well as search and rescue. It too is easy to use by a controller who is trained in a two week class.
The AeroVironment founder, Dr. Paul Mc Cready would be proud to see that his original invention, the first human powered plane, the Gossamor Condor, has been taken to another level. This time our country and possibly the world will benefit from his technology.