SLO drone manufacturer purchased by Lockheed Martin

A local drone manufacturer has been acquired by military giant Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed has purchased Arkansas-based Chandler/May Inc., which had an 80,000-square-foot facility at 125 Venture Drive in San Luis Obispo, for an undisclosed sum.

The San Luis Obispo operation originally began as AeroMech Engineering, founded in 1999 in a Los Osos garage by Cal Poly graduates Thomas Akers and Norm Timbs. Chandler/May Inc. bought a 51 percent ownership stake in AeroMech in August 2009, and changed the name to AME Unmanned Air Systems.

Now AME will become part of Lockheed Martin’s mission systems and sensors division, which produces unmanned systems, including helicopters and aerial vehicles, according to a recent news release.

Lockheed has approximately 90 employees at the site, a representative for the company confirmed. The location will continue to manufacture “tactical systems addressing urgent needs in Afghanistan,” Lockheed spokesman Keith D. Little wrote in an email to The Tribune.

He described the San Luis Obispo site as a “full spectrum design, engineering, integration, and manufacturing facility” capable of providing products such as the “Fury,” a long-endurance drone that does not need a runway, and full-mission management software, such as “SharkFin.”

AME had served as a contractor with Lockheed Martin in the past, supplying the Desert Hawk drone. Earlier this year, AME sued Lockheed for more than $1 million in payments due and costs incurred because of alleged production schedule miscommunications by Lockheed, according to public court records. The companies came to a settlement.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 120,000 people worldwide. The corporation’s net sales for 2011 were $46.5 billion.