AeroVironment touts 'walk-on, walk-off capability'

By Marjorie Censer / September 1, 2016 at 12:55 PM

AeroVironment is working with the Navy on incorporating and integrating its small unmanned aerial systems into Navy operations, the company's chief executive said this week.

Part of what makes the company's systems appealing to the service, Wahid Nawabi said during a call with analysts, is what he described as a "walk-on, walk-off capability."

"Based on the engagements that we have with the Navy on the small UAS front, they're working towards what I call the adoption process of how it actually becomes part of a standard plan," he said. "We have received some funding to work with them in terms of delivering some products. We've shared with you the progress we made in terms of the Precision Landing System . . . that we have developed, which essentially allows the Puma [All Environment] to precisely land on a net, which requires zero retrofit really to the ship's existing structure or operation."

Nawabi also said the company's Puma AE and Wasp AE "can withstand operations."

"They could land in saltwater in the ocean, and then you can literally wash it off and wipe it off and just fly it again," he said. "And you could do this over and over again. It's part of the specifications of the product."

But asked about whether the Navy is preparing a program of record, Nawabi demurred.

"Are they planning to work on a program of record? I don't have any specific details on that to provide today, and I can't predict that right now," Nawabi said. "All indicators are that there's a very large opportunity for us. The Navy is very interested in this capability and we believe that the adoption will happen. However, the timing really is unpredictable."

He added that AeroVironment has also demonstrated its Blackwing UAS to the Navy.

"This is a capability the Navy has been looking for, and it actually opens up a whole new set of capabilities and concepts of operations, which has never been heard before in this space, in this segment," Nawabi said. "I think that that Blackwing demonstration and progress that we've made so far also is a fairly significant long-term opportunity for our business -- the timing of which is unpredictable again."