Many companies are laying off workers, but a Monrovia defense contractor is doing the opposite.

Then again, AeroVironment Inc. is no ordinary contractor; it can lay claim to being one of the hottest companies around.

It has made a name for itself with small unmanned aircraft, which provide battlefield reconnaissance. Its products have been a hit with U.S. commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In fact, AeroVironment's "cool factor" is so high that one of its planes, the Wasp a hand-launched aircraft with a 2 & #733;-foot wingspan that transmits video of enemy positions was even featured in the recent Hollywood film "Eagle Eye."

Earlier this month, the company announced that it received an order from the U.S. Army valued at $41.7 million for another one of its unmanned aircraft systems, the Raven. Then, it got a $16.8 million contract for 50 newer Raven models equipped with a faster communication system.

But that's not all the company does. AeroVironment's also eyeing the hot industry of alternative energy, which accounts for about 15 percent of its revenue but is expected to grow.

The company has want ads out for engineers who will help expand its efficient-energy systems division, which makes "clean" transportation products, such as rooftop wind turbines and battery chargers for electric and hybrid vehicles.

The company hopes to hire 100 workers, with 90 assigned to the company's Simi Valley location, where its clean energy division is located. At a recent job fair, more than 350 people showed up to apply for the positions, which are also posted on the company's Web site: www.avinc.com.

"We have quite a few applications to sort through, but I can tell you that this area has the best pool of engineers any employer could ask for," said Steven Gitlin, the company's director of marketing strategy, investor relations and communications.

Investors are pleased, too.

AeroVironment's stock has roughly doubled over the past 12 months. And with military operations growing in Afghanistan, the company appears to have one recession-proof customer: the U.S. military.

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