My fascination with the founder of AeroVironment, which designs, develops, produces, and supports aircraft and energy systems, started when I was 12 years old. History was made that year when a man-powered aircraft flew across the English Channel for the first time.
I remember the flight clearly. The 70-lb aircraft made the 26-mile journey in 2 hours and 49 minutes.
The idea that a man could pedal a bicycle fast enough to fly across the channel seemed crazy to me at the time. But it was made possible because of groundbreaking designs by Dr. Paul MacCready.
MacCready made the first human-powered aircraft in 1977, the Gossamer Condor. Two years later came the Gossamer Albatross, the first fully human-powered aircraft to cross the English Channel. MacCready won the prestigious Kremer prize, which honors pioneers in human-powered flight, for each design.
His innovative creations led TIME magazine to call him one of the "greatest minds of the 20th century."
MacCready started AeroVironment in 1971. His imagination and persistence helped the company become a leader in creating UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). Now AeroVironment has grown into the largest provider of UAVs to the U.S. military.
UAVs will play an incredibly important role in our country's future. The art of war is evolving, and these devices have become the next key tool in the U.S. arsenal.
With its great niche in the defense industry, AeroVironment Inc. is a "Buy." (**)
Providing for the Future of DefenseWhen I think of UAVs, I think of the hunter-killer models the United States uses in its "War on Terror."
However, those are typically large, expensive, unmanned planes with missiles attached to them, which can fly three to five days without refueling. But in fact the U.S. military has purchased thousands upon thousands of small handheld UAVs, with the smallest designs weighing less than five pounds each.
These drones are revolutionizing the real-time gathering of battlefield information. The smaller breed of UAVs use a localized Wi-Fi type communications package instead of broadcasting their information to military satellites. This gives field troops direct access to intelligence, without it having to be relayed back from the United States.
The new UAVs also allow American soldiers to scout enemy territory without having to risk their lives.