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Drone-maker AeroVironment reports $6.6-million quarterly profit

The Monrovia firm exceeds estimates and says the latest gains show that the Pentagon is increasing its use of small aircraft to compensate as troops are moved out of Iraq.

December 07, 2011|By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
  • Nowell Siegel, a flight test pilot, helps guide the Qube, a drone manufactured by AeroVironment.
Nowell Siegel, a flight test pilot, helps guide the Qube, a drone manufactured… (Gary Friedman/ Los Angeles…)

Boosted by an increase in sales, Monrovia-based drone maker AeroVironment Inc. exceeded analyst estimates and reported $6.6 million in second-quarter profit, a large increase over the same period a year ago.

The company, which makes small hand-held drones for the Pentagon and charging systems for electric vehicles, posted $6.6 million in net income, or 30 cents a share, on Tuesday for the quarter ended Oct.29. That's compared with a profit of $262,000, or 1 cent a share, for the same period last year.

Analysts on average had forecast a profit of 20 cents 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 a road.

The company, which makes drones in its Simi Valley facilities, said total quarterly revenue increased 26% to $80.4 million compared with $63.7 million for the same quarter last year.

In a conference call, AeroVironment Chief Executive Timothy E. Conver said the company's drone sales remain strong despite the decrease in the number of troops in the Middle East and a tightening Pentagon budget.

Drone sales "actually increased as troops were drawn down from Iraq, supporting our notion that a drawdown is not necessarily unfavorable to our business," he said.

As larger spy planes and other surveillance equipment were moved out of Iraq, the military moved to smaller drones "to cover that gap, and there were multiple documented scenarios about the significant effectiveness of increased use of Ravens," Conver said.

Drone sales for the quarter rose 25% from the same quarter in 2010 to $66.9 million.

Quarterly sales of the company's charging systems for electric vehicles increased 31% to $13.4 million from $10.2 million a year earlier.

AeroVironment rolled out its residential charging stations for the Nissan Leaf this year and struck a deal with Nissan Canada to expand the program internationally.

"More than 5,000 of home and public charging docks have been deployed in 29 states and seven Canadian provinces and we are beginning to roll out our … charge stations in Texas, Oregon and Washington state," Conver said.

The results were reported after the close of regular trading. AeroVironment shares closed down 7 cents, or 0.2%, at $31.88.

william.hennigan@latimes.com

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