By Calvin Biesecker

BAE Systems yesterday said it has agreed to acquire Advanced Ceramics Research Inc., a developer and supplier of small and tactical unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and advanced ceramic materials, in a deal that complements the United Kingdom-based company’s work on larger UAS systems.

BAE said it is paying $14.7 million for Arizona-based Advanced Ceramics. In addition to expanding BAE’s portfolio of UAS offerings, the pending acquisition would give the company a manufacturing presence in the United States to augment its work in Britain on UAS, a company spokesman said.

BAE said that the deal is in line with its UAS strategy for which the company will bring together capabilities from all of its home markets while respecting relevant export control regulations.

"This acquisition will provide BAE Systems with an excellent set of mature, operational products with the small, Mini and Tactical UAS market," Walt Havenstein, president and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc., the U.S.-based arm of BAE, said in a statement. "The addition of these smaller UAS platforms will complement the larger UAS being developed by BAE Systems in the United Kingdom."

Advanced Ceramics produces three UAS systems. The SILVER FOX is a fixed-wing, single propeller system in use by the Marine Corps. The UAS can operate for up to 10 hours and can carry a five- to eight-pound payload.

The MANTA fixed-wing tactical UAS is driven by a rear-mounted propeller, can operate as long as eight hours and carry a 15 to 18 pound payload, either a daylight, or infrared pan-tilt-zoom camera. The COYOTE is a three-foot long, electric-powered UAS with a rear-mounted propeller that can stay aloft for up to 90 minutes. The small UAS can carry a one- pound payload, either an electro-optic or infrared camera, and can be deployed from an aircraft in flight. The Naval Air Systems Command is currently reviewing both MANTA and COYOTE for certification.

In the United Kingdom, BAE is developing and producting a number of larger UAS systems, including the Herti surveillance and reconnaissance platform, which has been used in Afghanistan. The company is also developing the delta-wing, jet-powered Taranis, which is set to begin ground trials this year. The Manits is a large, twin-engine UAS that is also in development. BAE also makes the GA 22, a surveillance blimp.

Advanced Ceramics also has an integrated ground control station that supports multiple UAS operations and displays real-time video. The company also has capabilities in ceramic materials for both military and commercial aerospace applications.

The transaction must be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. and is expected to close in the second quarter. Advanced Ceramics has 60 employees.