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AeroVironment, Inc.

AeroVironment Inc.
Industry Aerospace, Energy
Founded 1971
Headquarters Southern California, USA
Key people Paul B. MacCready, Jr., Founder
Website www.avinc.com

AeroVironment founder and former Chairman Paul MacCready shows a cross section of the AeroVironment/NASA Helios Prototype wing spar.

Gossamer Condor at NASM

Pathfinder Plus (left) and Helios Prototype (right) on the Dryden ramp

AeroVironment Inc is a technology company in Monrovia, California and Simi Valley, California that is primarily involved in energy systems, electric vehicle systems, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Paul B. MacCready, Jr., a famous designer of human powered aircraft, founded the company in 1971. The company is probably most well-known for developing a series of lightweight human-powered and then solar-powered vehicles.

Vehicles developed

  • Gossamer Condor - The first successful human-powered airplane. The Gossamer Condor is on display at the National Air and Space Museum, since it won the first Kremer Prize in 1977.

  • Gossamer Albatross - In 1979 this human-powered plane flew 23 miles (37 km) across the English Channel and claimed the largest prize in aviation history. Another of these planes is displayed at the National Air and Space Museum.

  • Gossamer Penguin - A solar-powered variant of the Gossamer Albatross.

  • Solar Challenger - This plane flew 163 miles (262.3 km) from Paris France to England on solar power.

  • Pathfinder and Pathfinder Plus - This unmanned plane, built by AeroVironment as a part of the NASA ERAST Program, demonstrated that an airplane could stay aloft for an extended period of time fueled purely by solar power. After initial successes, the Pathfinder was rebuilt into the larger Pathfinder Plus, which is also on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

  • Centurion - The Centurion was an expansion of the Pathfinder concept, designed to achieve the ERAST Program goal of sustained flight at 100,000 feet (30,480.0 m) altitude.

  • Helios Prototype - Derived from the Centurion, this solar cell and fuel cell powered UAV set a world record for flight at 96,863 feet (29,523.8 m). It was intended to be the prototype for the production Helios aircraft, envisioned as an "atmospheric satellite". The ERAST program was terminated in 2003, and as of 2008 Helios has not entered production. In actuality, it has been reborn in the form of the Global Observer UAS, currently in development under a Joint Concept Technology Demonstration led by USSOCOM. The key technology shift was switching from solar power to liquid hydrogen power.

  • Sunraycer - This solar-powered car won the first world's first solar car race in Australia in 1987. The next fastest car finished two days after the Sunraycer. This car is at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

  • GM Impact - This was an electric car, developed as a serious prototype for a mass-production consumer car.

  • Raven - a small military UAV. It is hand launched with a wingspan of 4.5 feet (1.4 m) and a weight of 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg), providing color and infrared video to its handheld ground control as well as remote viewing stations. Over 9,000 Ravens have been delivered or are on order as of June 2008.

  • Wasp - a miniature, hand-launched production UAV that provides aerial observation at line-of-sight ranges up to 3.1 miles (5 km). In 2007, the Wasp was selected by the US Air Force as the choice for their BATMAV Program. As of 2008, over 1,000 Wasp aircraft have been delivered to customers worldwide.

  • Puma - a small lightweight, hand-launched production UAV that provides aerial observation at line-of-sight ranges up to 6.2 miles (10 km). Puma's avionics enable autonomous flight and precise GPS navigation. It was originally designed to demonstrate advanced propulsion technologies for such aircraft. It flew in June 2007 for five hours powered by an onboard "fuel cell battery hybrid energy storage system." Another attempt in November 2007 saw a flight time greater than seven hours. Puma integrates licensed ProCore fuel cell system technology from Protonex Technology Corporation and hydrogen generation technology from Millennium Cell, Inc. On July 2, 2008, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) selected the Puma AE variant as its All Environment Capable Variant (AECV) solution.

  • SkyTote - a VTOL-fixed wing hybrid UAV, which has attained the advantages of both plane designs (respectively VTOL takeoff capability and decreased energy usage).


AeroVironment holds a five-year, $4.7 million IDIQ (indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity) contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory for the development of advanced propulsion technologies for UAVs. The contract also provides for specific technological tasks such as integration of solar cells into aircraft wings, electric motor efficiency improvement technologies, and development of hydrogen storage systems for aircraft.

As a US-based provider of products and technology for clean energy and efficient vehicles, AeroVironment has received a United States patent for technology that facilitates the optimal charging, management, control and maintenance of battery packs, chargers and electric vehicles (EVs).

"No electric vehicle charging company left behind." Recently in May 2009, Nissan Partnered with AeroVironment and the District of Columbia to install infrastructure to accommodate electric fueling to the hundreds of electric vehicles it envisions will be put to use by both the government and the public over the next few years.


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