AV was founded in 1971 by celebrated physicist and engineer Dr. Paul MacCready, who Time Magazine called one of the "greatest minds of the 20th century". For the next two decades, with the vision of "doing more with much less", the AV team pioneered a succession of groundbreaking vehicles including the Solar Challenger, the Sunraycer, and the General Motors Impact. These and 30 other "world's first"; vehicles cemented AV's position as a premiere development facility for breakthrough vehicle systems.
During the 1990s, the company expanded its focus from contract-based research and development to include the development of production products. In the next ten years, AV developed a portfolio of highly efficient, innovative products with commercial and government applications, including the Charger bicycle, SODAR, the Universal Solar Pump Controller, and an extensive line of market-leading Power Processing Systems.
Launching the Future
AV targeted two of these pioneering products - a small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) named "Pointer," and a high-current electric vehicle charger called "PosiCharge" - for broad, commercial launch based on the products' unique, market-changing capabilities and significant market potential. In 2001, after a period of rigorous research, market validation, and business planning, AV launched its small UAS and PosiCharge product lines. Lead customers included the U.S. Department of Defense (small UAS), and Ford Motor Co. and American Airlines (PosiCharge).
Changing the Rules
Today, AV's UAS and PosiCharge product lines are leaders in their respective markets. Each offers a full spectrum of products, accessories, services, and systems integration, and each is directed by focused teams who are responsible for engineering, manufacturing, marketing, sales, business development, and global expansion. Each product line enables its customers to bypass previously accepted limitations to improve their operating effectiveness. Small teams of soldiers use AV's small UAS to provide themselves with real-time situational awareness, which enhances their mission effectiveness. Large corporations use PosiCharge to increase their productivity and improve safety for rapid cost reduction. The efficiency improvements of both technologies over prior solutions reduce resource consumption and waste streams.
AV also continues to focus on applied R&D through its UAS Advanced Development and Energy Technology Centers, whose sought-after engineering teams develop innovative solutions for customers including Boeing, the Department of Defense, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, NASA and Raytheon. Numerous projects working their way through the development process represent possible future candidates for commercialization and launch. Many of these projects may further AV's heritage of changing the way we think about limitations on performance, safety, and competitive advantage.
Four of AV's early vehicle innovations have been acquired by the Smithsonian Institution (see Smithsonian collection to right).