Helicopters Magazine

Airbus Helicopters acquires Aerovel to expand unmanned aerial system portfolio

January 15, 2024  By Helicopters Staff

Aerovel’s has been designed for ISTAR missions for more than 12 to 14 hours in a typical operational configuration. (Photo: Dianne Bond, Airbus)

Airbus Helicopters and Aerovel signed an agreement regarding the acquisition of Aerovel and its unmanned aerial system (UAS), Flexrotor, which Airbus describes as part of a strategy to strengthen its portfolio of tactical unmanned solutions. Flexrotor is a small tactical unmanned aerial system designed for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions at sea and over land.

“This strategic acquisition aligns with our vision to expand our UAS offering and respond to a growing customer demand worldwide for additional mission capabilities such as manned-unmanned teaming,” said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “Aerovel’s expertise in autonomous flight technology will undoubtedly complement our UAS development with the VSR700, as well as the work that we have been doing to develop interoperability.”

Aerovel, based in Bingen, Washington, will remain a U.S.-owned company and continue collaboration with the US Department of Defense under Airbus’ Special Security Agreement (SSA). The acquisition has been approved by the relevant bodies of both companies and remains subject to regulatory approvals. The transaction closing is expected in 2024.

“Joining forces with Airbus will allow us to scale innovation, accelerate our mission to advance unmanned aviation, and maintain our unwavering support for the US military and its allies,” said Ali Dian, CEO of Aerovel. “We are proud to become part of an organization with a rich legacy of aerospace excellence and we look forward to leveraging our combined strengths to define the future of autonomous systems.”


The Flexrotor is described by Airbus as a modern Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Aircraft with a maximum launch weight of 25 kg. It has been designed for ISTAR missions for more than 12 to 14 hours in a typical operational configuration. It can integrate different types of payloads including an electro-optical system and sensors to suit customers’ mission needs.

With the ability to autonomously launch and recover from either land or sea, requiring only a 12 by 12-foot area for launch and recovery, Airbus states the Flexrotor is ideal for expeditionary missions requiring minimal footprint and a mission-proven, force multiplier for operations in harsh, high-threat, GPS-denied environments. The Flexrotor can also be used for parapublic missions such as forest fire surveillance (providing firefighters with images day or night) and ice navigation (helping guide naval vessels through ice in the Arctic ocean).


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