Aerovironment Inc., a Monrovia manufacturer of advanced unmanned aerial vehicles and quick-charge energy systems, is flying high with the military.


The U.S. Marine Corps recently placed a $19.3 million order with Aerovironment as a follow-on to a contract awarded by the Air Force in 2006. That contract provided the means for other branches of the military to place orders with Aerovironment.


The Marine Corps ordered the Wasp III unmanned vehicles, which can provide battlefield reconnaissance and surveillance. The Wasp III has an infrared camera and two color cameras that can transmit streaming video to troops on the ground.


The planes are Aerovironment's smallest and lightest unmanned aerial vehicles, with a wingspan of just 29 inches and weighing about a pound.


Additionally, under the order Aerovironment will supply the military with a specialized battery charging system.


"The small size and light weight of Wasp make it ideally suited for deployment directly to platoons, where flexibility, portability and reliability are critically important," said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. James Roudebush, the unmanned aerial vehicles program manager, in a statement.


Aerovironment derives about 80 percent of its $191 million in annual revenue from the sale of its line of unmanned planes. In addition to the Wasp III, the company makes about five other vehicles, including its most popular, the Raven.


Broadening Biodiesel

Allegro Biodiesel Corp., a Los Angeles-based producer and distributor of biodiesel fuel, is looking to expand.


The company has extended a $500,000 loan to Littleton, Col.-based Community Power Corp. in a move that could allow Allegro to acquire the company. Community Power specializes in using biomass or plant material residues for power generation.


"Our agreement paves the way for Allegro to add biomass conversion to our core competency of biofuels production," said Bruce Comer, the company's chief executive, in a statement.


Community Power has a proprietary gasification system that can derive energy from a variety of sources, including wood and grass, even when small amounts of plastic, such as from utensils, are mixed in.


Watershed Contract

Tetra Tech Inc. announced last week it has won a $75 million contract to provide engineering services for a nationwide watershed management program.


The Pasadena-based construction and engineering services provider was one of four companies chosen to help manage the program by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The program will focus on improving watershed management and cleaning pollution.


Tetra Tech, which recently was named one of the county's leading Iraq and Afghanistan military services contractors, has helped manage watershed programs since 1987.


Black Hawk Up

L.A.'s oldest company announced last week that it has won a significant deal to manufacture elements of the blades for the Black Hawk helicopter.


Ducommun Inc., a Carson-based aerospace company, will build titanium erosion shields which protect the main rotor blades for Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.'s military helicopter program under a new five-year, $60 million contract.


The contract was awarded by GKN Aerospace, a subcontractor to Sikorsky that is manufacturing the sheath assemblies for the blades.


Ducommun Chief Executive Joseph Berenato said the company will seek more work on the aircraft. Work on the shields will begin in January.


Diverse Deals

Civil engineering giant Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. announced two new contracts in vastly different fields.


The Pasadena company said it was awarded a $50 million contract to support base realignment for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and another contract by Petro-Canada to assist in heavy oil development.


Under the Army Corps of Engineers contract, Jacobs will provide a range of services to support construction projects in more than 10 states.


In the second contract, Jacobs will assist the Canadian oil and gas company in evaluating and upgrading its heavy oil development processes at its Lewis facility in Alberta. The value of the deal was not disclosed.


Valley Blast

Four people were injured last week in an explosion at a cosmetics manufacturing facility in Chatsworth.


One woman suffered burns to her face and three men had shortness of breath after the explosion at Thibiant International Inc., which firefighters said involved an organic peroxide. None of the injuries was life-threatening.


About 300 people at the Prarie Street facility and an adjacent building were evacuated.


Staff reporter Richard Clough can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 251, or at rclough@labusinessjournal.com.

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