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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

02 May 07. Aerovironment (AV) was founded in 1971 by celebrated physicist and engineer Dr. Paul MacCready, who Time magazine has called one of the “greatest minds of the 20th century.” For the next two decades, with the vision of ”doing more with much less”, the AV team pioneered a succession of groundbreaking vehicles including the Gossamer Condor, the Gossamer Albatross, the Solar Challenger, the Sunraycer, and the General Motors Impact. These and 30 other “world’s first” vehicles cemented AV’s position as a premiere development facility for breakthrough vehicle systems.

During the 1990s, the company expanded its focus from contract-based research and development to include the development of production products. In the next ten years, AV developed a portfolio of highly efficient, innovative products with commercial and government applications, including the Charger bicycle, SODAR, the Universal Solar Pump Controller, and an extensive line of market-leading Power Processing Systems.

Launching the Future

AV targeted two of these pioneering products – a small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) named “Pointer,” and a high-current electric vehicle charger called “PosiCharge” – for broad, commercial launch based on the products’ unique, market-changing core technologies and significant market potential. In 2001, after a period of rigorous research, market validation, and business planning, AV launched its small UAS and PosiCharge product lines. Lead customers included Ford Motor Co., American Airlines, and the U.S. Department of Defense.


The Raven B system, an enhanced version of the battle proven Raven A system, is a lightweight solution designed for rapid deployment and high mobility for both military and commercial applications, requiring low-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance intelligence. The most advanced small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) deployed with the U.S. Armed Forces, the Raven can be operated manually or programmed for autonomous operation, utililising the system’s advanced avionics and precise GPS navigation. With a wingspan of 4.5 feet and a weight of 4.2 pounds, the hand-launched Raven provides aerial observation, day or night, at line-of-sight ranges up to 10 kilometres. The Raven delivers real-time colour or infrared imagery to the ground control and remote viewing stations.

In 2003 Raven ramped up to a High Rate Production of 12 systems a day fulfilling orders for 5000 UAVs. Overseas customers include Italy (the biggest), Australia, Denmark (FMS) with a 5000 back order for the US Army.

A user dedication below sums up how the user values the Raven system

My name is *** ******, I served in Iraq with 2-28 BCT 1-110 INF, as a RAVEN section leader and operator. I loved those things! The RAVEN helped save many lives. My team was awarded several medals for the work we did and I would like to thank you for the system. We were able to push the “birds” much further than recommended. We’d confidently push the system past the 10 kilometer planning range and the 40 minute battery charge .Each man in my crew logged more than a thousand actual flight hours. We were able to fly nearly every day, and for weeks we’d fly 24 hours straight. The system works extremely well either as a fixed site or as a mobile station.

Unfortunately we had “birds” go down in flight. Though on most occasions we were able to pin point and retrieve them thanks to the GPS track, but some were lost due to the enemy situation. We toyed with the possibility of rfid tags but the short range of the tags wouldn’t have done us any good. If there were some way to temporarily power the transceiver after the aircraft battery was pulled we could have tracked the enemy after they collected the ‘birds’.

I can’t thank you enough for the system, the exceptional trainers, and the unbelievable support chain you have in theater. You

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