AeroVironment acquires Planck drone navigation tech specialist

AeroVironment Planck drone

Defense aeronautics and robotics specialist AeroVironment has acquired Planck Aerosystems, maker of navigation technologies for autonomous drones.

Virginia-based AeroVironment announced the deal by predicting the addition of Planck would considerably accelerate its development of advanced autonomy capacities for its drones and other aircraft. The purchase amount for the privately held Planck was not disclosed, and the transaction has already been finalized.

Acquisition of Planck was the first external growth move since AeroVironment transferred its headquarters from California to Arlington, Virginia. It’s also a reflection of the company’s success in developing drones and robotic vehicles for a growing list defense and security clients. 

The company recently secured nearly $30 million in business with various agencies of the US military and their allies, including aerial assets covered by aid packages to Ukraine voted by the US Congress. It has also landed over $20 million in business providing the US Special Operations tactical missile systems.

ReadAeroVironment donates 100+ Quantrix Recon drones to Ukraine 

In operational terms, the relatively small, San Diego-based Planck will become part of AeroVironment’s medium-range drone unit located in Petaluma, a town north of San Francisco. Planck engineers will focus on integrating the company’s flight autonomy tech into AeroVironment autonomous drones, which can in addition to stable environments can take off from and touch down on moving platforms on land or at sea – including in GPS-deprived situations. 

Planck solutions include its Autonomous Control Engine, and AVEM – a fully integrated mobile tethered sensor for shifting takeoff and landing scenarios, using machine-learning detection and tracking of intended arrival positions that can be customized for specific end-user needs.

“Planck has a compelling product and technology roadmap with valuable capabilities that we plan to deploy and integrate with AeroVironment’s existing portfolio of intelligent, multi-domain robotic systems,” said Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment CEO. “This transaction accelerates AeroVironment’s innovation in flight autonomy, increasing the effectiveness of our solutions in contested environments and reducing the cognitive load of operators, and adds a tethered SUAS to our portfolio of systems, creating exciting opportunities for upcoming programs of record.” 

Founded in 2014, Planck’s considerable progress in developing its navigation tech for drones and other aerial vehicles has earned it business from customers including the US Army, Navy Air Force, Customs and Border Protection, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the UK Royal Navy. Planck CEO Josh Wells believes that roster will expand even faster with the company joining AeroVironment. 

“We couldn’t be more excited about joining forces with AeroVironment to deliver innovative, multi-domain unmanned systems to the next generation of US and allied warfighters. AeroVironment’s reach, technical capabilities and portfolio of unmanned systems will enable the Planck team to scale our products to more customers, and to provide better solutions in less time,” Well said. “AeroVironment’s heritage of creating innovative solutions to meet customer needs is an ideal fit for the Planck team.”

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