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Mini-drone maker AeroVironment swings to quarterly profit

September 7, 2011 |  4:00 pm


AeroVironment Inc., the Monrovia company that makes small hand-held drones for the Pentagon and charging systems for electric vehicles, swung to a profit in its first quarter, bolstered by a 62% increase in sales.

The company Wednesday posted earnings for the quarter ended July 30 of $326,000, or 1 cent a share, compared with a loss of $3.4 million, or 16 cents, a year earlier. Analysts on average had forecast a profit of 1 cent a share.

AeroVironment is the Pentagon's top supplier of small drones, which include the Raven, Wasp and Puma models. The technology enables troops on the ground to see what lies over a hill or down the road.

In a conference call, AeroVironment Chief Executive Timothy E. Conver said the company’s drones are still in demand despite expectations of cuts in Pentagon spending. Drone sales for the quarter increased 56% to $52 million from $33 million a year earlier.

But to expand business in the future the company, known as AV, “will have to go beyond military applications,” Carver said.

The company’s family of small drones will be well positioned to address the “largely untapped potential” of flying drones in commercial airspace for tasks like monitoring public safety, Conver said. “This market is likely to develop in the next few years and be both global and large once it emerges.”

AeroVironment’s total revenue was up 62% to $62 million.

Sales of the company’s charging systems for electric vehicles rose 105% to $9.8 million.

AeroVironment rolled out its residential charging stations for the Nissan Leaf this year and struck a key deal with Nissan Canada to expand the program internationally. German automaker BMW also contracted with the company to build and install home charging systems for its ActiveE all electric vehicle.

“EV charging infrastructure is seen by many as a huge new market opportunity and it has attracted global competition,” Conver said.

The results were reported after the close of regular trading. AeroVironment shares closed up $1.75, or 6.2%, at $29.99.


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-- W.J. Hennigan

Photo: Soldier demonstrates AeroVironment's hand-launched Raven drone. Credit: AeroVironment Inc.