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26 Sep 07. AeroVironment, Inc. (AV) announced that it has received a contract from the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) for the development and military utility assessment of its Global Observer unmanned aircraft system (UAS). This contract initiates a Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration, or JCTD. The JCTD is sponsored by multiple U.S. government organizations. The contract calls for the development of up to three Global Observer aircraft over the next three years to demonstrate the ability to operate in the stratosphere for up to 7 days without landing. The basic contract, which will be funded under a cost-plus fixed-fee arrangement, provides for the development and delivery of the initial Global Observer aircraft, and is valued at approximately $57 million. The contract also includes options for the development and delivery of up to two additional Global Observer aircraft, resulting in a potential contract value of $108m.

“AV develops and commercializes entirely new solutions that offer our customers valuable new capabilities. We believe that Global Observer represents a game-changing new capability for defense, homeland security and, ultimately, commercial applications,” commented Tim Conver, chairman and chief executive officer of AV. “We have developed the unique sub-systems necessary to enable this new category of aircraft. We intend to continue to work diligently with our JCTD customers to produce a fully functional and reliable system that will deliver a brand new value proposition – affordable persistence in the stratosphere.”

Multiple government organizations are sponsoring the JCTD program, reflecting broad interest in its potential capabilities for military applications. The JCTD is intended to demonstrate the tactical utility of a hydrogen-powered UAS for long duration (five to seven day) missions at altitudes from 55,000 to 65,000 feet. Global Observer builds on over two decades of AV’s development and flight experience with stratospheric unmanned aircraft systems, including the record-setting Pathfinder and Helios solar-powered aircraft. A system consisting of two or three aircraft will provide continuous ISR or communications relay over an area of interest.

The Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Advanced Systems and Concepts (DUSD (AS&C)) selected Global Observer as a Fiscal Year 2007 JCTD Rolling Start in the Fiscal Year 2007 Advanced Concept/Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (ACTD/JCTD) Congressional Report. The DUSD (AS&C) has designated USSOCOM as the Technical Manager to lead the JCTD.

AeroVironment also reaffirmed its prior guidance for fiscal year 2008 of 20% to 25% revenue growth over fiscal year 2007 and 12% to 14% operating margin.

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