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UAV Factory to merge with autopilot firm JAI

JAI says it has developed equipment for Lockheed Martin's Stalker unmanned aircraft. (Lockheed Martin)

US private equity firm AE Industrial Partners (AEI) has expanded its unmanned aircraft portfolio by acquiring autopilot provider Jennings Aeronautics Inc (JAI), AEI announced on 14 September.

AEI said it plans to merge JAI with unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer UAV Factory, which it purchased in January. JAI CEO John Purvis will become CEO of the combined company, which will have about 200 employees, while JAI founder Gordon Jennings will take a senior leadership role in the merged entity.

“AEI is committed to building a unique and differentiated platform with proprietary technology in the unmanned and autonomous market, and with the addition of JAI and its innovative [small unmanned aircraft system] offerings, we have taken a huge step forward in reaching this goal,” AEI principal Jeffrey Hart said. “JAI also affords us tremendous manufacturing and engineering capabilities, and a footprint that will allow us to quickly scale and meet the growing demands of our customers.”

Based in San Luis Obispo, California, JAI has delivered more than 4,000 autopilot suites for more than 30 air vehicle configurations. JAI also designs and builds air vehicles, imaging payloads, and ground stations. Its customers include US defence contractors AeroVironment and Lockheed Martin.

In addition to providing more capital and operational expertise to JAI, the acquisition will boost the company's international footprint. UAV Factory, whose products include the catapult-launched Penguin C UAV, is headquartered in Riga, Latvia, and has delivered aircraft to 57 countries.

Financial terms of the JAI deal were not disclosed.

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