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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists
Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.
AeroVironment is in the business of building businesses. Our innovative technologies enable large, break-through market opportunities – like 12-mile high cell towers, intelligent battery chargers, and unique distributed energy systems.
Key Skills and Proprietary Technologies
Over 30 years of research and development, AeroVironment has generated numerous intellectual properties – in the form of patents, trade secrets, copyrights, and expertise in:
Efficient Energy Systems Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Electric Vehicle Systems
Specific core competencies include: Power Electronics Embedded Controls Bi-directional Grid Interface Battery Management and Control Fast Charging Systems Renewable Energy Fuel Cell Systems and Controls Electric Propulsion Systems Miniaturized Avionics Lightweight Structures Low Speed Aerodynamics Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Systems Integration
Innovations like the world’s first modern electric car have garnered AeroVironment a worldwide reputation among academic, government, and business leaders. This same reputation continues to attract the best talent from around the globe.
AeroVironment was founded in 1971 with the vision of forming a company that would "help business and government recognize and meet their environmental and energy objectives." The company has since advanced – turning its innovative systems into large, breakthrough commercial ventures.
Current Business Launches
AeroVironment is currently focused on three commercial businesses that have seamlessly evolved from the R&D phase to Launch:
iPower Technologies provides advanced technologies and systems integration capabilities for the distributed generation market. Formed by AeroVironment and joint ventured with Delco Remy International, iPower leverages the significant engineering, research, manufacturing and commercial resources of its parent companies and strategic partners. iPower combines AeroVironment’s power controls and electronics and proprietary 10-kilowatt microturbine technology with Delco Remy International’s assets, including generator technologies, global manufacturing and re-manufacturing, and distribution network. IPower builds and sells distributed generation systems in order to fulfill residential and industrial co-generation, standby power, and hybrid electric vehicle market needs. iPower’s initial products are made up of natural gas fueled internal combustion engines, advanced technology generators, power electronics and embedded software controls. “Balance of plant” components developed by AeroVironment provide quality power, grid interface, and system control for the application. With a $14 million 1st round venture financing agreement recently closed, production contracts in hand, and commercial production set to begin, iPower is well positioned to take advantage of the large market opportunity in distributed generation.
SkyTower is based on AeroVironment’s solar electric unmanned airplane technology, developed in conjunction with NASA. SkyTower’s business opportunity is to build and operate solar/electric airplane-based telecommunications networks initially for fixed broadband access (“the last mile”) service providers. Other commercial telecommunications applications like 3-G mobile, broadcast and narrow band voice will follow. SkyTower demonstrated the first ever stratospheric telecommunications platform in July 2002 with HDTV broadcast, 3-G mobile video conferencing, and high speed Internet access from 65,000 feet. The demonstration used AeroVironment’s solar UAV developed with NASA and communications payloads from NEC/Toshiba developed with the Japanese Ministries of Post and Telecom. Helios, our solar/electric airplane prototype, will be able to maintain a stationary position at 12 miles altitude in the stratosphere for six months at a time with minimal operating costs. Early target market applications include fixed broadband and third generation mobile service for high-speed Internet, voice, video, and data connectivity. Other high-potential applications will be pursued on a global basis, including direct broadcasts and wireless telephony. SkyTower will be the lowest cost and most flexible solution for connecting mobile users, offices and homes to the high-speed fiber backbone in many markets. Other competitive advantages include rapid deployment, easy technology upgrades, minimum infrastructure build out, flexible deployment and redeployment, scalability, and the ability to match investment to market demand.
PosiCharge brings to market a next-generation intelligent rapid charging battery system for industrial and other electric vehicle applications. AeroVironment has developed a suite of technical features that are safer, smarter, easier to use, and more cost-effective than traditional charging systems. This large market is partially represented by over one million industrial electric lift trucks in use in the United States and over two million internationally, representing a multi-billion dollar global opportunity. Many of these vehicles are used almost continuously in 2 or 3 shift operations and require multiple batteries in order to realize throughput requirements. Each truck uses multiple batteries that are changed throughout the day in a battery room. Battery rooms are costly, create employee safety issues, and add battery handling labor costs. Moreover, the act of battery changing itself creates hours of non-productive vehicle operator time. PosiCharge, an alternative to battery changing rooms, significantly reduces capital costs, labor costs and nonproductive space allocations – effectively redefining the material handling industry. Fortune 500 companies like Ford, Toyota, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, SysCo Foods, and Office Depot have already realized the numerous advantages of PosiCharge.
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