50 Years of Envisioning the Future

AeroVironment was built on an inspirational idea by its founder, Dr. Paul B. MacCready, Jr., in 1971. The idea was to use aerospace engineering principles to solve important challenges facing the world, and do so with a spirit of defying conventional wisdom about achieving the impossible – to do what nobody else had ever done before.

Dr. MacCready expressed his founding idea in the company’s name, Aero(space) + (en)Vironment. A simple phrase associated with Dr. MacCready still describes the creative spirit of its people, "doing the impossible." Instead of asking "why?" Dr. MacCready encouraged the question, "why not?" And so began a company that pioneered innovations in flight technology and other nuanced inventions.

Early in AeroVironment’s history, from the quiet, suburban enclaves of Pasadena and Simi Valley, California, the growing team of AeroVironment innovators identified unmet scientific challenges, including human and solar-powered flight, developed solutions, and then moved on to seek out other unresolved challenges.

Their efforts included driving dark, desert highways in pre-dawn hours to test new aircraft designs at Mitner field in Shafter and Edwards Air Force Base in Lancaster, and even included speeding down the residential streets of Simi Valley with a full-size replica of a prehistoric Pterosaur strapped to the roof of a cargo van. These pioneers set in motion the creative and problem-solving DNA that exists throughout the company’s culture to this day — the passion to go where no one has gone and do the impossible. Today, AeroVironment leads the technology markets that it pioneered years ago — long before most took notice of our company’s potential.

In the mid-1980s, the company’s engineers created the Pointer, a hand-launched, battery-powered, unmanned aircraft equipped with cameras that streamed live video and data back to its operator – decades before the idea of "streaming video" existed. Today, every U.S. military service uses the company’s growing family of tactical unmanned aircraft systems, as do more than 45 allied nations.

Also in the 1980s, AeroVironment envisioned large, solar-powered flying wings that could dwell in the stratosphere for months delivering connectivity and remote observation to underserved areas around the globe. Today, AeroVironment has built and flown the next generation solar HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo Satellite) unmanned aircraft system as part of its HAPSMobile joint venture with SoftBank Corp.

In the 2000s, as the company’s tactical unmanned aircraft systems proliferated throughout the U.S. Department of Defense, new end-users reported great success spotting the enemy and expressed a strong desire for a capability to strike quickly and surgically at imminent threats on the battlefield. Today, AeroVironment’s Switchblade® is the U.S. Army’s solution for the Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System requirement, protecting our Armed Forces in hostile areas from deadly threats while eliminating damage to property and non-combatants.

Along the way, AeroVironment’s innovative minds created new ideas that either proved too early for the market — electric-assist bicycles and distributed smart generators — or proved to be less aligned with the company’s growth strategy — rooftop solar wind turbines and industrial, electric vehicle chargers.

AeroVironment’s team also developed solutions that captured the imagination, such as the Nano Hummingbird and the Mars Helicopter, which is scheduled to make the first controlled flight on the Red Planet during the company’s 50th anniversary year.

Today, AeroVironment continues to be aligned with Dr. MacCready’s original philosophy and strives to defy conventional wisdom by pursuing what others consider impossible. The company is busy unleashing new products, new partnerships and advanced capabilities, which form an ecosystem surrounding our unmanned aircraft systems, tactical missile systems and the future-defining technologies of robotics, sensors, software analytics and connectivity. It is the future state where these technologies converge to become force multipliers.

Doing the impossible is never easy, but at AeroVironment, it’s what drives us!