We design, develop, produce and support a technologically-advanced portfolio of unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, that we supply primarily to organizations within the U.S. Department of Defense, or DoD, charging systems for electric industrial vehicle batteries and electric vehicle test systems devices that we supply to commercial and government customers. We derive the majority of our revenue from these business areas and we believe that the markets for these solutions have significant growth potential. Additionally, we believe that some of the innovative potential products in our research and development pipeline, some of which we receive customer funding to develop, others we fund ourselves, will emerge as new growth platforms in the future, creating additional market opportunities.
The success we have achieved with our current products stems from our investment in research and development and our ability to invent and deliver advanced solutions, utilizing our proprietary technologies, to help our government and commercial customers operate more effectively and efficiently. Our core technological capabilities, developed through nearly 40 years of innovation, include lightweight aerostructures, electric propulsion systems, efficient electric energy generation and storage systems, high-density energy packaging, miniaturization, controls integration and systems engineering optimization.
Prior to May 1, 2008, our operating segments were UAS, PosiCharge Systems and Energy Technology Center. Effective May 1, 2008, we consolidated the operations of two of our business segments to reflect the change in the management and organizational structure that occurred on May 1, 2008. The change in the management and organizational structure was made to take advantage of operational synergies and optimize management time by focusing on two as opposed to three business segments. PosiCharge Systems and Energy Technology Center were consolidated into one segment named Efficient Energy Systems. As required by Statement of Financial Accounting Standards ("SFAS") No. 131, we have restated the historical segment information for the fiscal years ended April 30, 2008 and 2007, to be consistent with the current reportable segment structure.
Our Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment focuses primarily on the design, development, production and support of innovative UAS that provide situational awareness to increase the security and effectiveness of our customers' operations. Our Efficient Energy Systems business segment focuses primarily on the design, development, production and support of innovative efficient electric energy systems that address the growing demand for clean transportation and clean energy solutions.
We intend to grow our business by maintaining leadership in the markets for UAS, electric vehicle charging systems and electric vehicle test systems and by creating new products that enable us to enter and lead new markets. Key components of this strategy include the following:
Expand our current solutions to existing and new customers. Our small UAS, electric vehicle charging systems and electric vehicle test systems are leading solutions in their respective North American markets. We intend to increase the penetration of our small UAS products within the U.S. military, the military forces of allied nations and non-military U.S. customers. We believe that the increased use of our small UAS in the U.S. military will be a catalyst for increased demand by allied countries, and that our efforts to pursue new applications will help to create non-military opportunities. We similarly intend to increase the penetration of our electric vehicle charging systems and electric vehicle test systems into existing and new customers in North America and globally.
Deliver innovative new solutions. Innovation is the primary driver of our growth. We plan to continue research and development efforts to develop better, more capable products and services, both in response to and in anticipation of customer needs. We believe that by continuing to invest in research and development, we will continue to deliver innovative, new products that address market needs within and outside of our current target markets, enabling us to create new opportunities for growth.
Foster our entrepreneurial culture and continue to attract, develop and retain highly-skilled personnel. We have created a corporate culture that encourages innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit, which helps to attract and retain highly-skilled professionals. We intend to nurture this culture to encourage the development of the innovative, highly technical solutions that give us our competitive advantage. A core component of our culture is the demonstration of trust and integrity in all of our interactions, contributing to a positive work environment and engendering loyalty among our customers.
Preserve our agility and flexibility. We are able to respond rapidly to evolving markets and deliver new products and system capabilities quickly, efficiently and affordably. We believe that this ability helps us to strengthen our relationships with customers. We intend to maintain our agility and flexibility, which we believe to be important sources of differentiation when we compete against competitors with more extensive resources.
We sell the majority of our small UAS to organizations within the DoD. Our Efficient Energy Systems business segment generates revenue from commercial and, to a lesser extent, government customers.
During our fiscal year ended April 30, 2009, approximately 43% of our sales were made to the U.S. Army pursuant to orders made under contract by the U.S. Army on behalf of itself as well as several other services of the U.S. Military. Other U.S. government agencies and government subcontractors accounted for 38% of our sales revenue, while purchases by foreign and commercial customers accounted for the remaining 19% of sales revenue during our fiscal year ended April 30, 2009.
The market for our small UAS has grown significantly over the last several years due to the U.S. military's post-Cold War transformation and the demands associated with the current global threat environment. Following the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military began its transformation into a smaller, more agile force that operates via a network of observation, communication and precision targeting technologies. This transformation accelerated following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as the U.S. military required improved observation and targeting of combat enemies who operate in small groups, often embedded in dense population centers or dispersed in remote locations. We believe that UAS, which range from large systems, such as Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk and General Atomics' Predator, Warrior and Reaper, to small systems, such as our Raven and Wasp, are an integral part of this transforming military force because they provide critical observation and communications capabilities serving the increasing demand for actionable intelligence, while reducing risk to individual "warfighters." Our small UAS can provide real-time observation and communication capabilities to the small units who directly control them. As we explore opportunities to develop new markets for our small UAS, such as border surveillance, law enforcement and petrochemical industry infrastructure monitoring, we expect further growth through the introduction of UAS technology to non-military applications once rules are established for their safe and effective operation in the national airspace.
Stratospheric Persistent UAS
We believe a market opportunity exists for UAS that can fly for multiple days to perform continuous remote sensing and communications relay missions in an affordable manner. The emergence of distributed military threats in geographic areas with limited communications infrastructure has prompted U.S. military forces to deploy solutions to manage the increasing volume of data generated by their operations in those areas. Existing solutions such as communications satellites, manned aircraft and unmanned aircraft address some of this emerging demand for bandwidth, but do so at relatively high financial and resource costs. Additionally, given the embedded nature of military adversaries who operate in population centers, rural areas and remote locations, the ability to observe areas of interest on a continuous basis with high resolution sensors remains a critical, largely unmet need. Geosynchronous satellites provide fixed, continuous communications relay capabilities to much of the globe, but they operate nearly 25,000 miles from the surface of the earth, therefore limiting bandwidth and requiring relatively larger, higher power ground stations. Observation satellites typically operate at lower altitudes, but are unable to maintain geosynchronous positions, meaning they are moving with respect to the surface of the earth, resulting in limited coverage over areas of interest, and significant periods of time during which they do not cover those areas. An unmanned aircraft that is capable of operating for extended periods over an area of interest while carrying a communications relay or observation payload in an affordable manner could help to address this need.
Electric Vehicle Charging Systems
Electric and hybrid electric vehicles require on-board battery packs to provide the energy that powers their operation. These battery packs range in size, weight and energy content. As drivers operate electric vehicles, their battery packs discharge energy similar to the way an internal combustion vehicle consumes gasoline as it is driven. In order to continue operating, the driver of an electric vehicle must either replace the depleted battery pack with a fully charged pack or recharge the pack in situ. Because of the differences in battery size and composition, as well as the operational requirements associated with each vehicle, there exist a variety of charging systems designed to support the operation of these vehicles. These charging systems range from relatively slow chargers that require up to eight hours to completely recharge a battery pack, to extremely fast chargers that can do so in a very short amount of time.
In industrial applications, fast charge technology, which charges a battery with a high electrical current while the battery remains in the vehicle, eliminates the need for frequent battery changing and a dedicated battery room. This approach increases productivity, reduces operating costs and improves facility safety. The earliest adopters of fast charge technology include the automotive and air transportation industries. Large food and retail industry customers are now also utilizing fast charge technology.
Electric industrial vehicles are powered by large onboard batteries that can consume up to 17 cubic feet and weigh up to 3,500 pounds. In multi-shift fleet operations, traditional charging systems require users to exchange vehicle batteries throughout the day because these batteries discharge their energy through vehicle usage and there is insufficient vehicle downtime to recharge them during a shift. As a result, drivers must leave the work area when the battery reaches a low state of charge and drive to a dedicated battery changing room, which often occupies valuable floor space and is frequently located far from a driver's work area. The driver or dedicated battery attendant must then remove the battery from the vehicle, place it on a storage rack, connect it to a conventional battery charger, identify a fully-charged battery, move it into the vehicle's battery compartment and reconnect the battery to the motor before the driver may return to the work area. These battery changes take place every day in thousands of facilities around the world, resulting in reduced material movement and increased operating costs. Furthermore, depending on the type of battery, conventional battery chargers can require up to eight hours to recharge the battery, which then must cool for up to an additional eight hours before it is ready to be used again. Consequently, depending on vehicle usage and the number of shifts in an operation, a fleet may require more than one battery per vehicle, which necessitates additional storage space, chargers and maintenance time. Moreover, the high levels of heat generated by conventional battery chargers during their normal use can cause excessive evaporation of the water contained in the battery and damage to the battery's components. Over time, this evaporation of fluid and damage to components result in battery degradation and negatively affect the battery's life.
Electric Vehicle Test Systems
Developers of battery electric and hybrid electric vehicles typically conduct a variety of tests on the electric propulsion and storage systems that form the core of their vehicles. These tests include simulating the consumption, conversion and storage of electricity through a range of operating scenarios, and include long term testing to simulate the rigors of real-world driving. Developers of battery packs, electric motors and fuel cells also test their devices to validate design hypotheses and identify potential operating issues. Global interest in alternative energy transportation solutions, including battery electric and hybrid electric vehicles, has increased and has served as a driver of increased demand for electric vehicle and component test systems. This demand spans commercial, government, military and university research and development labs as more funding and attention is focused on clean transportation.
Our small UAS, including Raven, Wasp, and Puma AE, are designed to provide valuable Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR, including real-time tactical reconnaissance, tracking, combat assessment and geographic data, directly to the small tactical unit or individual warfighter, thereby increasing flexibility in mission planning and execution. Our small unmanned aircraft wirelessly transmit critical live video and other information generated by their payload of electro-optical or infrared sensors, enabling the operator to view and capture images, during the day or at night, on a hand-held ground control unit. All of our ground control units allow the operator to control the aircraft by programming it for GPS-based autonomous navigation using operator-designated way-points and also provide for manual flight operation. These ground control units are designed for durability and ease of use in harsh environments and incorporate a user-friendly, intuitive, graphical user interface. All of our production small unmanned aircraft operate from our common ground control unit.
All of our small UAS are designed to be man-portable, assembled without tools in less than five minutes and launched and operated by one person with limited training required. The efficient and reliable electric motors used in all of our small UAS are powered by replaceable modular battery packs that can be changed in seconds, enabling rapid return to flight. All of our small UAS can be recovered through an autonomous landing feature that enables a controlled descent to a designated location.
In military applications, our systems enable tactical leaders to observe the next corner, intersection or ridgeline in real-time. This information facilitates faster, safer movement through urban and mountainous environments and can enable troops to be proactive based on field intelligence rather than being forced to react to an attack. Moreover, by providing this information, our small UAS reduce the risk to warfighters and to the surrounding population by providing the ability to tailor the military response to the threat. U.S. military personnel regularly use our small UAS, such as Raven, for force protection, combat enemy observation and damage assessment missions. These reusable systems are easy to transport, assemble and operate and are relatively quiet when flying at typical operational altitudes of 200 to 300 feet due to our efficient electric propulsion systems. Furthermore, their small size makes them difficult to see from the ground. In addition, the low cost of our small UAS relative to larger systems and alternatives makes it practical for warfighters to deploy these assets directly.
Our small UAS also include spare equipment, alternative payload modules, batteries, chargers, repairs and customer support. We provide training by our highly-skilled instructors, who typically have extensive military experience, and continuous refurbishment and repair services for our products. We currently maintain a forward operating depot in Iraq to support the large fleet of our small UAS deployed there. By maintaining close contact with our customers and users in the field, we gather critical feedback on our products and incorporate that information into ongoing product development and research and development efforts. This approach enables us to improve our solutions in response to, and in anticipation of, evolving customer needs.
The U.S. Army projects its total demand for our Raven small UAS at approximately 2,182 new systems, of which we had delivered approximately 57% as of April 30, 2009. For the fiscal years ended April 30, 2009, 2008 and 2007, sales of our UAS products and services accounted for 85%, 86% and 84%, respectively, of our revenue.
The ground control system, or GCS, is the primary interface between the operator and the aircraft, and allows the operator to control the direction, speed and altitude of the aircraft as well as view the visual information generated by the aircraft through real-time, streaming video. Our single GCS interfaces with each of our air vehicles, providing a common user interface with each of our air vehicles. In addition to the thousands of air vehicles delivered to our customers, thousands of GCS are also in our customers' hands.
In January 2009, we received the initial production order for the introduction of our digital data link, DDL, to replace the analog data link used by all of our small UAS. The result of a successful development program, digital data link will enhance the capabilities, and ultimately, the utility of our small UAS by enabling more efficient radio spectrum utilization and communications security. Small UAS incorporating our digital data link will offer many more channels as compared to our analog link, increasing the number of air vehicles that can be operated in a given area. Additionally, our digital data link will enable each air vehicle to operate as an IP, or Internet-Protocol, addressable hub capable of routing and relaying data to and from multiple other nodes on this ad hoc network. This capability will enable beyond line-of-sight operation of our small UAS, further enhancing their value proposition to our customers.
In support of our small UAS we offer a suite of services that help to ensure the successful operation of our products by our customers. We provide spare parts as well as repair, refurbishment and replacement services through our services operation. We designed our services operation to minimize supply chain delays and provide our customers with spare parts, replacement aircraft and support whenever and wherever they need them. We developed an Internet-accessible logistics system that provides our customers with the status of their returned products and their inventory that we help manage. This secure system also provides recent parts and repairs history and tracks usage data to enable inventory optimization forecasting. Our Simi Valley, California facility, which also serves as the primary depot for repairs and spare parts, is currently supplemented by a forward supply depot in Iraq.
We provide complete training services to support all of our small UAS. Our highly-skilled instructors typically have extensive military experience. We deploy training teams throughout the continental United States and abroad to support our customers' wide variety of training needs on both production and development stage systems. We offer turnkey flight operation services to customers requiring the information generated by our small UAS.
Efficient Energy Systems Products
Our Efficient Energy Systems business segment produces industrial productivity and clean transportation solutions for commercial and government customers, develops new potential clean transportation and clean energy solutions, and performs contract engineering services. These solutions consist of PosiCharge electric vehicle charging systems for industrial electric material handling fleets, and electric vehicle test systems for developers of hybrid and electric vehicles as well as battery packs, electric motors and fuel cells. For the fiscal years ended April 30, 2009, 2008 and 2007, Efficient Energy Systems sales accounted for 15%, 14% and 16%, respectively, of our revenue. We believe that the markets for our electric vehicle charging systems and electric vehicle test systems continue to develop and that continued diversification of our customer base will support increased penetration into target markets.
PosiCharge Electric Vehicle Charging Systems
Developed from our work on electric and hybrid electric vehicles and advanced battery systems in the 1990s, PosiCharge electric vehicle charging systems quickly and safely recharge industrial vehicle batteries while the batteries remain in the vehicle during regularly scheduled breaks and other times when the vehicle is not in use, thereby maintaining a sufficient level of energy throughout the workday. By eliminating battery changing, PosiCharge systems improve supply chain productivity by returning time to the vehicle operator to complete more work. Furthermore, because of their advanced efficient energy capabilities, PosiCharge systems can reduce the amount of electricity required to support electric industrial vehicles by several hundred dollars per year per vehicle as compared to conventional battery chargers. Many customers who implement our fast charge systems in their facilities are able to re-purpose the battery changing room floor space for more productive activities and create a safer working environment, as drivers or battery attendants no longer need to exchange large, lead-acid batteries.
Developed over years of advanced battery testing and usage, the proprietary battery charging algorithms built into PosiCharge systems, which are tailored to battery type, brand and size, maximize the rate at which energy is sent into the battery while minimizing heat generation and its damaging effects. We believe our work to develop these algorithms contributed to the major battery manufacturers offering battery warranties for fast charge, which provided a critical assurance to customers that fast charge systems would not harm their batteries. In combination with a weekly equalization charge that balances all the cells within the battery pack, our "intelligent" charging process enhances the performance of batteries and helps them to achieve improved operation. We believe that competitive fast charge and conventional charge systems, which lack our current and voltage regulating tailored charge algorithms and monitoring capabilities, may actually contribute to lower battery performance and lifespan, ultimately resulting in higher battery costs and degraded vehicle performance.
Our complete line of electric vehicle charging products enables us to design customized system solutions for each facility based on its shift schedule, workload, truck type and battery type. By customizing the system to unique customer requirements, we can help to reduce the cost of implementing and operating fast charge systems while maximizing the benefit of PosiCharge systems to our customers. Our complete solution consists of system configuration, installation, training, asset management and performance monitoring. Moreover, while fast charge technology itself provides significant operational and financial benefits to our customers, we believe that our ability to integrate the system effectively into customer operations through installation services, asset management capabilities and post-sale support increases the value proposition. We believe that this "turnkey" approach to the fast charge market represents a potential source of competitive advantage.
We project that PosiCharge system customers typically begin to realize cost savings when compared to battery changing within the first twelve months of operation. Operators of large fleets of electric industrial vehicles who use PosiCharge fast charge systems in multiple settings, including factories, distribution centers, cold storage facilities and airport tarmacs, include Ford Motor Company, SYSCO Corporation, Southwest Airlines and IKEA.
Our PosiCharge systems and support products consist of the following:
PosiCharge ELT. ELT, our original fast charge product, is designed to safely deliver the highest current (up to 600 amps) to electric forklifts, such as counterbalance or "sit-down" trucks, used in heavy-duty applications.
PosiCharge DVS. Capable of charging either one vehicle at a time at up to 500 amps or two vehicles simultaneously at up to 320 amps each, DVS is designed to deliver lower up-front installation and ongoing utility costs when compared to other single vehicle fast chargers. Because DVS is a high-current, stand-alone system, it is capable of supporting a variety of specific charging needs, including isolated vehicles in remote areas, smaller fleets requiring smaller systems and heavy-duty applications with variable usage patterns.
PosiCharge MVS. MVS, a multiple-port, multi-vehicle fast charge system, is designed for charging low-to-medium-duty electric industrial vehicles, such as pallet jacks, reach trucks and tow motors, in distribution, warehousing, and general manufacturing settings. Each system is capable of charging up to 16 vehicles at the same time and is designed to deliver greater cost-savings as the number of vehicles simultaneously charged increases.
PosiCharge SVS. A cost-effective, flexible fast charge solution for single vehicle applications, the SVS line of fast change systems has a compact footprint and provides up to 500 amps of current through its single port.
PosiCharge GSE. Ruggedized for outdoor use in extreme weather conditions, GSE is designed to deliver all the benefits of our MVS product to the airport ground support equipment market.
PosiCharge eSVS. The eSVS opportunity charger line provides a total fleet solution with the intelligence necessary for true opportunity charging for low duty vehicles. Optimized for safety, run time and battery life, the fully automatic eSVS features equalization and anti-arcing safeguards and is best suited for low usage electric vehicles in single and light duty double shifts.
Accessories. In addition to charging systems, we offer a variety of accessories to help our customers integrate PosiCharge into their operations. Single point, automatic watering systems ensure that battery electrolyte is maintained at an optimal level and that watering occurs at the optimal time, thereby contributing to battery health and reducing labor costs associated with manual watering. Charge indicator lights provide fleet supervisors with color codes visible from a distance that indicate the status of the battery's charge. Battery-mounted fans for use with the heaviest-duty types of vehicles keep these batteries cool to improve battery performance. Cable management options and charger stands provide customers the flexibility to install PosiCharge in the best location.
Electric Vehicle Test Systems
We supply a line of electric vehicle test systems to research and development organizations that focus on developing electric propulsion systems, electric generation systems and electricity storage systems. Customers employ these electric load and sink systems to test batteries, electric motors and fuel cell systems.
Our line of DC test systems has the flexibility to perform a variety of supplier load tests. With a full power range (+/-5kW to +/-250kW) of bi-directional DC equipment, our EV test systems can handle virtually any DC supply or load requirement—from lead acid to the latest Li-ion batteries to fuel cells with integrated power electronics. In addition, these systems can emulate any drive train component, enabling the testing of individual components or partial drive trains accurately and realistically, allowing true hardware-in-the-loop testing. We also offer flexible software control options - via the C language Remote Operation System or ROS, Windows-based languages such as LabVIEW or CAN.
Contract Engineering Services
We actively pursue internal and externally funded projects that help us to strengthen our technological capabilities. We submit bids to large research customers such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Special Operations Command for projects that we believe have future commercial application. Contract engineering services conducted through our Efficient Energy Systems business segment represent a strategic source of innovation for us. Providing these services contributes to the development and enhancement of our technical competencies. In an effort to manage the ability of our key technical personnel to support multiple, high-value research and development initiatives, we attempt to limit the volume of contract engineering projects that we accept. This process enables us to focus these personnel on projects we believe offer the greatest current and future value to our business. Consequently, while these projects typically add to our operating margin, we are not seeking to grow this service offering at this time.
We define funded backlog as unfilled firm orders for products and services for which funding currently is appropriated to us under the contract by the customer. As of April 30, 2009 and April 30, 2008, our funded backlog was approximately $114.8 million and $82.0 million, respectively. We expect that 90% of our funded backlog will be filled during our fiscal year ending April 30, 2010.
In addition to our funded backlog, we had unfunded backlog of $510.6 million and $384.3 million as of April 30, 2009 and April 30, 2008, respectively. We define unfunded backlog as the total remaining potential order amounts under cost reimbursable and fixed price contracts with multiple one-year options, and indefinite delivery indefinite quantity, or IDIQ contracts. Unfunded backlog does not obligate the U.S. government to purchase goods or services. There can be no assurance that unfunded backlog will result in any orders in any particular period, if at all. Management believes that unfunded backlog does not provide a reliable measure of future estimated revenue under our contracts.
Because of possible future changes in delivery schedules and/or cancellations of orders, backlog at any particular date is not necessarily representative of actual sales to be expected for any succeeding period, and actual sales for the year may not meet or exceed the backlog represented. Our backlog is typically subject to large variations from quarter to quarter as existing contracts expire, or are renewed, or new contracts are awarded. A majority of our contracts, specifically our IDIQ contracts, do not currently obligate the U.S. government to purchase any goods or services. Additionally, all U.S. government contracts included in backlog, whether or not funded, may be terminated at the convenience of the U.S. government.
Technology, Research and Development
Technological Competence and Intellectual Property
Our company was founded by the late Dr. Paul B. MacCready, the former Chairman of our board of directors and an internationally renowned innovator who was instrumental in creating our culture. This culture has enabled us to attract and retain highly-motivated, talented employees and has established our reputation as an innovator.
The innovations of our company and our founder include, among others: the world's first effective human-powered and manned solar-powered airplanes; the first modern consumer electric car (the EV1 prototype for General Motors); the world's highest flying airplane in level flight, Helios, a solar-powered UAS that reached over 96,000 feet in 2001; and, more recently, the world's first liquid hydrogen-powered UAS. The Smithsonian Institution has selected four vehicles developed by us for its permanent collection. Our history of innovation excellence is the result of our creative and skilled employees whom we encourage to innovate and develop new technologies.
Our primary areas of technological competence, UAS and efficient electric energy, represent the sum of numerous technical skills and capabilities that help to differentiate our approach and product offerings. The following table highlights a number of our key technological capabilities:
Efficient Electric Energy Technology
• Lightweight, low speed aerostructures and propeller design
• Battery management and testing
• Miniaturized avionics and micro/nano unmanned aircraft systems
• Power electronics and controls
• Image stabilization and target tracking
• Efficient drive systems and controls
• Unmanned autonomous control systems
• Fuel cell system integration and testing
• Payload integration
• High-density energy packaging
• Hydrogen propulsion systems and high-pressure-ratio turbochargers
• Electric power generation, storage and management
• Stratospheric flight operations
• Charging algorithms and thermal management
• Fluid dynamics
• On/off grid controls
• Miniature, low power wireless digital communications
• Controls integration
• System integration and optimization
• System integration and optimization
We follow a formal process to evaluate new ideas and inventions that ultimately includes review by our commercialization committee to determine if a technology, product or solution is commercially feasible. The committee members are selected by our Chief Executive Officer. Currently our commercialization committee consists of our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer. In addition, each of our operating segments has its own internal evaluators who determine whether potential commercialization opportunities and intellectual property developments merit review by our commercialization committee. A fundamental part of this process of innovation is a screening process that helps business managers identify commercial opportunities that support current or desired technological capabilities. Similarly, we manage new product and business concepts through a rigorous commercialization process that governs spending, resources, time and intellectual property considerations. An important element of our commercialization process is ensuring that our technology and business development activities are strongly linked to customer needs in attractive growth markets. Throughout the process we revalidate our customer requirement assumptions to ensure that the products and services we ultimately deliver are of high value.
As a result of our commitment to research and development, we possess an extensive portfolio of intellectual property in the form of patents, trade secrets, copyrights and trademarks across a broad range of unmanned aircraft system and advanced energy technologies. As of April 30, 2009, we had 96 currently effective issued patents and approximately 75 patents pending. In many cases, we opt to protect our intellectual property through trade secrets as opposed to filing for patent protection in order to preserve the confidentiality of such intellectual property.
The U.S. government has licenses to our patented technology that was specifically developed in performance of government contracts, and it may use or authorize others to use the inventions covered by such patents for government purposes.
While we consider the development and protection of our intellectual property to be integral to the future success of our business, at this time we do not believe that a loss or limitation of rights to our intellectual property would have a material adverse effect on our business taken as a whole.
Research, Development and Commercialization Projects
One important aspect of our technology research and development activity is the development and commercialization of innovative solutions that we believe can become new products and open opportunities for us to enter large new markets or accelerate the growth of our current products. We invest in an active pipeline of these commercialization projects that range in maturity from technology validation to early market adoption. We cannot predict when, if ever, these projects will be successfully commercialized, or the exact level of capital expenditures they could require, which could be substantial. In our fiscal year 2009, we began the transition of our Digital Data Link, a communications capability for our small UAS, from development to production with the receipt of an initial production order. Four development programs are described below.
Global Observer is a high-altitude, long-endurance UAS under development to address the critical need for affordable, 24-hour, 365-days-a-year persistent communications and ISR. The continuation of years of research with both our own and U.S. government sponsored development funding, the configuration now being developed under a three-year joint capabilities technology demonstration program, or JCTD, with several agencies of the U.S. government is being designed to operate at up to 65,000 feet for up to a week between landings. We expect the efficiency and endurance (three to four times the longest flight time of existing fixed-wing aerial options) of this UAS to provide for dramatically lower operating and total life cycle costs for missions where persistent communications or surveillance is critical. The Global Observer platform is intended to be the low-cost equivalent of a twelve-mile-high, redeployable satellite, providing a footprint of coverage of up to 600 miles in diameter and capable of providing a broad array of services, including high-speed broadband data, video and voice relay and ISR. We expect these capabilities to provide the foundation for multiple high-value applications including communications relay and ISR missions for defense and homeland security, storm tracking, telecommunications infrastructure, wildfire detection/tracking and disaster recovery services.
Switchblade. We are developing a packaged, self-launching UAS that is designed to deliver different payloads in different sizes and configurations based on mission requirements. One example of this offering is a single-use, hand-held, small UAS with the ability to destroy a target with minimal collateral damage through the detonation of an onboard explosive upon impact. This system would be launched by a single individual and operated through the standard ground control unit used to control our other small unmanned air vehicles. This version of Switchblade is being designed to allow the operator to identify a threat using visual information transmitted from the aircraft to the ground control unit, lock-on to the target, and neutralize the target by triggering an autonomous terminal guidance phase which results in the aircraft's impact with the target and simultaneous detonation of the explosive payload. We believe that recent combat experience indicates that such a capability would be of great value and could significantly improve the ability to neutralize hostile elements, such as snipers, machine gunners and mortar launchers. Development of this system under customer funding has achieved desired milestones including demonstrating dynamic target tracking and real-time aircraft course correction and high precision, as well as launching from multiple platforms.
Stealthy Perch and Persistent Stare UAS. We are under contract to develop a small UAS capable of performing "hover/perch and stare" missions. The Stealthy, Persistent, Perch and Stare or SP2S UAS is based on our small Wasp UAS, a one-pound, 29-inch wingspan battery-powered air vehicle that is being procured and deployed by both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps. The goal of the SP2S program is to develop the technology to enable an entirely new generation of perch-and-stare micro air vehicles capable of flying to difficult targets, landing on and securing to a "perch" position, conducting sustained, perch-and-stare surveillance missions, and then re-launching from its perch and returning to its home base.
Passenger and Fleet Electric Vehicle Fast Charge Systems. Based on over a decade of successful electric vehicle fast charging, and drawing experience gained in the development of the GM Impact, we are introducing a line of fast and conventional charging systems designed to enable the safe and reliable recharge of advanced electric vehicle battery packs. This line of systems supports the increased interest in and funding for practical, clean transportation solutions. We have delivered prototype units to customers and are focusing on system reliability and safety.
For the fiscal years ended April 30, 2009, 2008 and 2007, our internal research and development spending amounted to 9%, 8% and 8%, respectively, of our revenue, and customer-funded research and development spending amounted to an additional 27%, 13% and 11%, respectively, of our revenue.
Sales and Marketing
Our marketing strategy is to increase awareness of our brand among key target market segments and to associate AeroVironment with innovation, flexibility, agility and the ability to deliver reliable new technology solutions that improve operational effectiveness and efficiency. Our reputation for innovation is a key component of our brand and has been acknowledged through a variety of awards and recognized in numerous articles in domestic and international publications. We have registered the trademarks AeroVironment® and PosiCharge® and have submitted several other applications for trademark registration, including for AV, Global Observer and Architectural Wind.
We organize our U.S. small UAS business development team members by customer and product and have team members located where they are in close proximity to the customers they support. Supporting our business development team members are our program managers, who are organized by product and focus on designing optimal solutions and contract fulfillment, as well as internalizing feedback from customers and users. By maintaining assigned points of contact with our customers, we believe that we are able to enhance our relationships, service existing contracts effectively and gain vital feedback to improve our responsiveness and product offerings.
We primarily sell our PosiCharge electric vehicle charging systems through a dedicated, direct sales force whose members are located in close proximity to the customers they support. The sales team targets large entities with the potential for domestic and international enterprise adoption of our solutions. In addition to our direct customer sales, we also employ a regional sales team that coordinates distribution of PosiCharge fast charge systems through battery and lift truck dealers. These dealers' relationships with, and proximity to, our customers' facilities enable them to sell our solutions and provide post-sale service to our customers. We believe that these dealers are well suited to address the large number of smaller and geographically dispersed customers with industrial vehicle fleets. When evaluating a facility for its ability to benefit from PosiCharge fast charge systems, we perform a detailed analysis of the customer's operations. This analysis allows us to quantify the benefit projected for a PosiCharge system implementation, helping customers to determine for themselves if the business case is sufficiently compelling.
Electric Vehicle Test Systems
We sell our electric vehicle test systems through a dedicated, direct sales force and through a network of international distributors and representatives who have access to the research and development organizations that procure and use these types of systems. Given the distances involved, we enable and rely on our international distributors to provide service in support of our customers.
We are increasing our sales efforts abroad and have employees in country or have contracted with international sales representatives for our segments in a variety of foreign markets. Our international sales accounted for approximately 7% of our revenue for the fiscal year ended April 30, 2009.
Manufacturing and Operations
We pursue a common lean and efficient production system strategy across our product lines, focusing on rapid prototyping, supply chain management, final assembly, and integration quality and final acceptance testing. Using concurrent engineering techniques within an integrated product team structure, we rapidly prototype design concepts and products and optimize our designs for manufacturing requirements, mission capabilities and customer specifications. Within this framework, we develop our products with feedback and input from manufacturing, quality, supply chain management, key suppliers, logistics personnel and customers. We rapidly incorporate this input into the design to ensure maximum efficiency and quality in our products. As a result, we believe that we can significantly reduce the time required to move a product from its design phase to full-rate production deliveries with high reliability, quality and yields.
We outsource certain production activities, such as the fabrication of structures and the manufacture of subassemblies and payloads, to qualified suppliers with whom we have long-term relationships. This outsourcing enables us to focus on final assembly system integration, and test processes for our products, ensuring high levels of quality and reliability. We believe that our efficient supply chain is a significant strength of our manufacturing strategy. We have forged strong relationships with our key suppliers that we believe will allow us to continue to grow our manufacturing capabilities and execute our growth plans. We continue to expand upon our suppliers' expertise to improve our existing products and develop new solutions. We rely on both single and multiple suppliers for certain components and subassemblies. See "Risk Factors—If critical components of our products that we currently purchase from a small number of suppliers or raw materials used to manufacture our products become scarce or unavailable then we may incur delays in manufacturing and delivery of our products, which could damage our business" for more information. All of our production system operations incorporate internal and external quality programs and processes to increase acceptance rates, reduce lead times and lower cost.
UAS Manufacturing and Operations
We have successfully developed the manufacturing infrastructure to execute production of new small UAS products at low initial rates, high-volume, full-rate production, and initial low-rate production of our stratospheric persistent UAS, Global Observer. Continued investment in infrastructure has established our manufacturing capability to meet demand with scalable capacity. By drawing upon experienced personnel across various manufacturing industries (aerospace, automotive, volume commodity) we have progressed in establishing our lean production system and levering our ISO certification, integrated supply chain strategy, document control systems, and process control methodologies into this new manufacturing effort for a high volume, efficient production system. Presently, our small UAS manufacturing is performed at our 85,000 square foot manufacturing facility established in 2005 in Simi Valley, California. This ISO 9001:2000 certified manufacturing facility is designed to accommodate demand of up to 1,000 aircraft per month. ISO 9001:2000 refers to a set of voluntary standards for quality management systems. These standards are established by the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, to govern quality management systems used worldwide. Companies that receive ISO certification have passed audits performed by a Registrar Accreditation Board-certified auditing company. These audits evaluate the effectiveness of companies' quality management systems and their compliance with ISO standards. Some companies and government agencies view ISO certification as a positive factor in supplier assessments.
Efficient Energy Systems Manufacturing and Operations
We perform final assembly and testing of our PosiCharge fast charge systems and electric vehicle test systems at a 20,000 square foot, ISO 9001:2000 certified facility located in Monrovia, California. We designed this facility for flexibility, using a work cell model for final assembly, and have included fixtures optimized for final testing.