MILAN — The Emirati conglomerate Edge Group has acquired a majority stake in the Swiss unmanned helicopter company Anavia, weeks before Swiss authorities are expected consider legislation that would likely subject such takeovers to federal scrutiny on national security grounds.
Announced a week ahead of the Dubai Air Show, the acquisition is aimed at expanding Edge’s portfolio and supply chains of autonomous aerial vehicles. The Anavia deal will allow the Abu Dhabi-based group to “benefit from Anavia’s experience in the development of advanced unmanned helicopters,” the two companies declared on Nov. 6.
“Together with Edge, we are poised to redefine the possibilities in this field … to meet the evolving demands of both military and civilian sectors, and there is great potential here as we explore these synergies together,” Jon Andri Jörg, founder and co-CEO of Anavia, said in a statement.
Anavia is a Switzerland-based manufacturer specialized on large unmanned cargo helicopters with a weight of up to to 750 kilograms. Its flagship product, unveiled in 2021, is the HT-100 drone. According to the manufacturer, the aircraft is capable of transporting up to 65kg (143 lbs) of payload and flying for over four hours.
Company officials have hinted that they are already working to expand these capabilities.
“We have plans to develop the HT-100 further for even more payloads. That will be a faster development project we will talk about very soon,” an Edge spokesperson told Defense News. “Production will remain in Switzerland with some components built in the UAE.”
Left unmentioned in the takeover announcement was Switzerland’s ongoing pursuit of a new foreign investment screening regime. In 2021, after the adoption of a motion to better protect the national economy, the Swiss Federal Council was tasked to draft preliminary legislation to that effect.
Following a lengthy consultation process to review the proposed law, a majority of decision makers opposed its introduction, arguing that it would weaken Switzerland’s attractiveness as an investment hub.
The compromise reached was that the bill should be revised, with the scope limited to certain business sectors. Hence, the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research was tasked to produce an amended draft before the end of 2023.
The main proposal of the new legislation is expected to be that only foreign state-controlled investors taking over Swiss companies operating in critical sectors, such as defense equipment, will be subject to a screening.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.