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AeroVironment employees accused of carrying loaded military drone on commercial airline

AeroVironment employees accused of carrying loaded military drone on commercial airline
The Raven drone, displayed at AeroVironment in Simi Valley on May 13, 2015, can be used for surveillance for commercial and military operations. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

AeroVironment Inc. has been accused of trying to conceal that employees transported a drone rigged with explosives on a commercial flight and then retaliated against a manager who told the government.

In April 2015, AeroVironment workers traveled to Los Angeles from Salt Lake City on a Delta Air Lines flight with at least one of them toting an explosive-laden drone in a carry-on bag, according to a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court. There were about 230 civilian passengers aboard, the April 18 complaint says.

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The plaintiff, Mark Anderson, who oversaw security for the Monrovia company’s top-secret government programs, learned of the incident in May 2015, according to the complaint. After reporting it to the U.S. Department of Defense, he was reprimanded, stripped of his responsibilities and ultimately fired without severance, Anderson alleges.

Aurelius Value, a short-seller, highlighted the lawsuit in a report Thursday, saying the allegations could disrupt AeroVironment’s relationship with government agencies. Sales to the United States account for about 55% of the firm’s revenue, the drone-maker said in its annual report.

An AeroVironment spokesperson said in a statement Thursday afternoon that the complaint “contains baseless legal claims that are without merit,” and that the company will “defend itself vigorously once it is served with the complaint.”

A Delta spokesman had no immediate comment.

Shares of AeroVironment rose 5.6% to $55.80 on Thursday.

4 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from AeroVironment.

This article was originally published at 1:50 p.m.

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