Case Studies

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Unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) have been used in military settings for over a century. In 1915, French engineers developed the “Torpille Terrestre” (Land Torpedo) — a UGV loaded with explosives meant to breach enemy lines. In the 1930s, the Soviets began using UGVs based on the T-18 and T-26 tanks and were dubbed “Teletanks.” The Teletanks were controlled remotely from another tank about a mile away and were deployed in the Winter War against Finland in 1940. The UGV had a humble beginning as little more than a single-use detonation device, but today these vehicles feature state-of-the-art capabilities that work to protect and preserve lives.

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When it comes to flying high, AeroVironment has led the way in sustained solar-powered, high-altitude flight with projects dating back more than 40 years. Building on its pioneering innovations — Gossamer Condor, Solar Challenger, Pathfinder Plus, and Helios — AeroVironment advanced these earlier technologies to develop a solar-powered, high-altitude platform station (HAPS) named Sunglider™.

“These earlier innovations made significant contributions to the current HAPS aircraft,” said Bob Curtin, HAPS business development director. “I think it’s reasonable to say that the development of today’s HAPS aircraft started with the Gossamer Condor in 1977.”

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Could a drone that is used to scout for enemy activity on the battlefield also help count endangered seals in Alaska? What about relaying communications from a remote area to an emergency response center? For the past 50 years, our innovative engineers have been asking these type of questions to provide our customers with new ways of achieving their goals. The same features and capabilities AeroVironment's unmanned aircraft systems provide to troops on the front line could address a host of missions beyond the military. 

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AeroVironment has always been powered by great thinkers and doers, constantly experimenting with new ideas that help customers do more and offering innovative firsts and never-seen-before solutions. These innovators have learned over time that being at the forefront of technology can be both daunting and rewarding, and the adoption of transformative solutions can take time, but in the end, they come to life.

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The Nano Hummingbird proved to be a first-of-its-kind innovation. The micro air vehicle was the first flapping-wing, nano unmanned air vehicle (UAV) with tai-axis control, which enabled it to hover and fly sideways, backward and forward, as well as rotate clockwise and counter clockwise and counterclockwise - all by remote control. 

Designed and developed by AeroVironment's MacCready Works Advanced Solutions team, the Nano Hummingbird was a unique project that satisfied a specific customer requirement.

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Solar technology isn't a recent discovery. Its history dates back to the seventh century B.C. when a magnifying glass was used to concentrate the sun's rays to make fire. 

Fast forward to 1839, French physicist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect (generating voltage and electric current upon exposure to light) while experimenting with a cell made of metal electrodes in a conducting solution. He saw that the cell produced more electricity when it was exposed to light. Many physicists and scientists contributed to the awareness, introduction and proliferation of solar energy technology, including AeroVironment founder Dr. Paul MacCready, Jr.

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AeroVironment's Huntsville office recently took action to participate in the company's IMPACT! Program by getting involved in several local activities.

AeroVironment donated $2500 to the 2020 Still Serving Veterans (SSV) Golf Tournament. The annual event took place Friday, Oct. 9, in Cullman, Ala. All proceeds went to support veterans.

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Imagine a frontline defense that could neutralize your enemy within seconds and save your life and the lives of those around you. The movie "The Hurt Locker" features a scene in which the protagonists are pinned down overnight by a single sniper. Every time a member of their group peeks over the embankment to fix the location of the sniper, they are shot. Now, imagine if the team possessed a tube-launched air vehicle that they could launch at will and use to find, fix and neutralize the sniper without placing anyone in harm's way. That "imaginary" frontline defense solution is real, and it's called Switchblade.

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"For AeroVironment, success came as a result of four core elements: innovation, simplicity/elegance of design, reliability, and customer collaboration," said Scott Newbern, AeroVironment's chief technology officer. Newbern, who has been with the company since 1997, identified these core elements as the foundation that launched AeroVironment into the global, small, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) business. 

According to Newbern, the innovative spirit has been a distinct characteristic among AeroVironment employees since the company's inception. "Back in the early days, many employees were aviation enthusiasts in one way or another," he stated, "and some were world champions competing in aircraft modeling events around the world. 

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A human-powered airplane built by Dr. Paul MacCready, Jr.

Dr. Paul MacCready, Jr., had an unorthodox approach to aviation design, one that paid high dividends throughout his lifetime. His philosophy was to design and build for quick iteration, and he is quoted as saying, “Find a faster way to fail, recover, and try again.” That methodology certainly worked for the design of the Gossamer Condor, the first successful human-powered aircraft.

In 1959, British industrialist Henry Kremer put out a challenge to build a human-powered airplane and attached a substantial monetary prize for the winner. For 18 years, nobody could do it. Dr. MacCready was up for the challenge. Only six months after attempting his aircraft design, a pilot successfully flew the Gossamer Condor. The difference? While others needed a year’s worth of effort for each test flight, Dr. MacCready created a plane that he could fly, fix, and fly again in just a few hours.

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