Military

L3 Acquires Company That Builds Fixed-Wing, Vertical-Flight Drones

By Calvin Biesecker | August 17, 2018
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Latitude HQ UAS

Photo courtesy of Latitude Engineering

L3 Technologies in late June acquired Latitude Engineering, a small company that has developed technology to enable unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to take off and land vertically and also fly as a fixed-wing aircraft.

L3 disclosed the $15 million cash deal in a July 26 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that discussed the company’s second quarter financial results for 2018. Deal terms include a potential $20 million more for the purchase if certain financial performance conditions are met over the next four years.

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Latitude, which is based in Arizona, has developed what it calls hybrid quadrotor technology for use on its own and other UAS platforms. The technology enables vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) of an aircraft, which eliminates requirements for runways and launch and recovery equipment, and fixed-wing flight for increased efficiency, speed and endurance, according to Latitude’s website.

The combination of VTOL and fixed-wing flight in one aircraft design also allows for more portability and a smaller operating footprint, Latitude said.

Latitude is developing UAS platforms for military and commercial use. The company advertises four systems on its website: the HQ-10, an all-electric aircraft with a 2-pound payload capacity and 1 hour of endurance; the HQ-40, which has a five-pound payload capacity and five hours of endurance; the HQ-55, which has a 10-pound payload capacity and 10 hours of endurance; and the HQ-90B, which has a payload capacity between eight and 12 pounds and 12 to 24 hours of endurance.

Latitude’s hybrid quadrotor technology is also featured on other companies’ UAS airframes, including the Arcturus UAV Jump-15 and Jump-20, and Textron’s Aerosonde HQ.

L3 in its SEC filing said Latitude will be part of its Electronic Systems segment. L3 already has UAS capabilities through several of its business units in the areas of sensors and systems. The company has previously sold the APEX small tactical UAS and Viking UAS to U.S. forces. L3’s Unmanned Systems unit has previously partnered with Latitude on fixed-wing VTOL UAS with long-endurance capabilities.

The investment banking firm Houlihan Lokey, which served as Latitude’s financial advisor, announced the acquisition on Tuesday. Houlihan Lokey said that Latitude recently participated in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Pathfinder program that is working with industry to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace for beyond line of sight operations.

L3 acquired two companies during the second quarter. In June, it also acquired Applied Defense Solutions, Inc., a space mission company, for $50 million. The company announced that deal in early July.

This story originally appeared in sister publication Defense Daily.

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