Space Investing: Beyond the Battlefield


AeroVironment, a company specializing in unmanned and autonomous systems, has reported strong quarterly results and an expanded order backlog driven by the high demand for its technology, which has been tested in Ukraine. CEO Wahid Nawabi noted that eight of their robots and drones are in use in Ukraine, marking a turning point in the use of small distributed drones and loitering munitions in warfare.

While the defense is AeroVironment’s largest customer, Nawabi emphasized that the company’s capabilities extend beyond the battlefield, particularly in the field of space. The company played a pivotal role in the design and development of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter, which made history by conducting the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. Nawabi views this achievement as the beginning of a space robotics business for AeroVironment, with potential applications in Mars colonization and beyond.

AeroVironment’s space-related projects include a contract with NASA to co-design and develop two helicopters for a Mars Sample Recovery mission. The company is also partnering with Softbank on building high-altitude pseudo satellites (HAPS) for the stratosphere, which could provide broadband connectivity. This technology has both commercial and defense applications.

The expansion into space-related endeavors complements AeroVironment’s core competency in autonomy and unmanned systems. While these missions are unmanned, they are not disconnected from larger goals, and the company is poised to leverage its expertise in this growing sector.

In other space-related news, NASA’s Psyche asteroid mission is set to launch, SpaceX achieved its 62nd orbital launch this year, and Japan launched its SLIM spacecraft for lunar exploration.

Overall, AeroVironment’s foray into space robotics and its strong position in autonomous systems for defense applications position the company for growth in both the space and defense sectors.

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