• Honoring Aerovel’s Founder Tad McGeer’s Vision and Innovation

London. 12 September 2023. This year marks a momentous milestone in the world of aviation as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first-ever unmanned aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean. We pay tribute to the visionary Dr. Tad McGeer (Aerovel’s Founder), whose groundbreaking work paved the way for modern unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The historic journey of the Aerosonde Laima inspired technological advancements and marked a turning point in the world of aerospace.

On August 21st, 1998, the Aerosonde Laima UAS designed and developed by Tad McGeer, captured global attention by becoming the first unmanned aircraft to successfully traverse the Atlantic Ocean. From Newfoundland to Scotland, the 26 hr. 45 min. journey of the 13 kg UAS, showcased the potential of autonomous flight and marked a paradigm shift in aviation history. The Aerosonde’s success was a testament to McGeer’s ingenuity, determination, and passion, propelling innovation forward.

In 1991 the Aerosonde was conceptualized in response to the chronic shortage of weather data over the oceans. Satellites generated useful information, but forecasters and their numerical models depended on data that satellites couldn’t supply. A long-range, tiny, autonomous aircraft that could be the sounding instrument itself was needed. It should be cheaper than a balloon and reach almost anywhere over the oceans or remote land areas. Such an invention would need sophisticated engineering and comprehensive testing, which is what led to the 1994 incorporation of The Insitu Group, the company McGeer started in a Silicon Valley garage just two years prior.

The Aerosonde Laima’s successful 1998 voyage brought great credibility to The Insitu Group and later in 2000, Dr. McGeer and his team designed an unmanned aircraft that would catapult his company into the defense sector. Insitu’s SeaScan/ScanEagle made the longest ship-based aircraft flight in 2004 and was quickly adopted by the US Marines and Navy.

Today McGeer’s most recent achievement is produced by Aerovel, a company he founded in 2006 and where he serves as the Chief Technology Officer. The Aerovel Flexrotor sets a new precedence in modern-day unmanned aircraft. Built upon the foundations laid by the Aerosonde, the learnings captured throughout the years, and the changing landscape of the defense industry, McGeer once again designed a revolutionary UAS, only this time it would take off vertically and transition into wing-borne flight. The small Group 2 tactical unmanned aerial system (STUAS) requires no more than a 12×12 area for vertical launch and operates autonomously from take-off to landing.

The Flexrotor’s endurance of 32 hours with a 1.5kg payload, demonstrates its efficiency in challenging conditions. As technology continues to advance, the Flexrotor’s unique design and capabilities position it as a formidable contender for enduring long-range missions, highlighting its adaptability and potential to excel in extended flight times while maintaining payload capacity. Just as the Aerosonde’s achievement was a breakthrough in its time, the Flexrotor’s capabilities push the boundaries of endurance and autonomy to conduct intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) on land

and at sea. The VTOL UAS is evidence of McGeer’s ongoing vision and commitment to creating versatile, efficient and effective unmanned aerial systems for today’s modern applications.

“This 25th anniversary is a testament to the enduring impact of Tad McGeer’s achievement, and his unwavering commitment to innovation,” said Ali Dean, CEO of Aerovel. “The journey of the Aerosonde across the Atlantic Ocean laid the foundation for technologies like the Flexrotor, which continues to shape the landscape of unmanned aviation. We are honored to carry forward McGeer’s legacy and contribute to the advancement of autonomous flight capabilities.”