WASHINGTON — Aerovironment, a leading supplier of unmanned aircraft systems to the U.S. military, has purchased Arcturus UAV for $405 million. Arcturus is currently competing for a $1 billion Army contract to replace the Shadow tactical unmanned aircraft system.

Arcturus, which was founded in 2004 in California, specializes in Group 2 and 3 UAS, which run the gamut between drones over 20 pounds and under roughly 1,300 pounds.

Army units are evaluating Arcturus’ Jump 20 UAS. The drone is competing against Martin UAV and Northrop Grumman’s V-Bat, Textron’s Aerosonde HQ, and L3Harris Technologies′ FVR-90.

The Jump is a multimission, medium-endurance, vertical-takeoff-and-landing system that can become airborne independent of a runway. Arcturus also makes the T-20, a multimission, medium-endurance, catapult-launched system.

The Army is moving toward a final request for proposals with its Future Tactical UAS program that will replace the Shadow UAS, so the sale of Arcturus to a much larger UAV company is timely.

Aerovironment did not have a path to Group 3 UAS, and bringing Arcturus into the fold fills that gap. According to those following the industry, Aerovironment has products that, when integrated into Arcturus’ capabilities, could make for attractive future systems.

Being acquired by a larger company like Aerovironment would also help the company become a more serious contender in the Army competition by building up its manufacturing capability to radidly produce UAS in large quantities, which the Army would require if the Jump is selected.

The total purchase price of the sale is a combined $355 million in cash and $50 million in Aerovironment stock, according to a Jan. 13 news release.

Arcturus previously supplied UAS to U.S. Special Operations Command’s $1.4 billion MEUAS III and IV programs, the release noted.

“We are excited about the opportunities for value creation through our acquisition of Arcturus UAV, which will enable us to accelerate our growth strategy and expand our reach into the more valuable Group 2 and 3 UAS segments,” Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment president and CEO, said in the statement.

“Group 2 and 3 UAS and services, collectively, potentially represent more than one billion dollars in annual contract value, according to an independent forecast,” he added. “Combining our highly complementary products and technologies will enhance our portfolio, deliver top and bottom-line growth, and enable us to provide customers with a complete set of Group 1 through 3 UAS, tactical missile systems, high-altitude pseudo-satellites and unmanned ground vehicle solutions.”

With Aerovironment, “we will have greater scale, expanded resources, cutting-edge technology and superior capabilities to meet the growing global demand for our products and solutions,” D’Milo Hallerberg, Arcturus UAV president and CEO, said in the statement. “We are confident that with AeroVironment, we can accelerate our growth as part of a larger, more diverse company and look forward to working closely with the team to complete this exciting transaction.”

The transaction is expected to be complete by the final quarter of fiscal 2021, and Arcturus will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Aerovironment.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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