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AeroVironment Lifts Off

Unmanned aerial vehicle maker AeroVironment (Nasdaq: AVAV  ) first went public back in January, but the stock didn't really take off until last week. Having done some aerial reconaissance of the company's prospects, I've uncovered some info that may send the stock into the wild blue yonder.

In its first earnings release as a public company (on fiscal Q3 2007 results), the slightly schizophrenic maker of

  1. PosiCharge systems for charging batteries quickly, and
  2. tiny unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the military

reported a 30% jump in sales versus Q3 of last year, and more than twice the profits of the previous year. As a result, investors bid the shares up 10% in a heartbeat.

As we continue to acquaint ourselves with this Nasdaq newcomer, let's first take a look at its most talked-about product: The Raven UAV. In contrast with larger UAVs such as Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT  ) Polecat, Northrop Grumman's (NYSE: NOC  ) Global Hawk, or General Atomics' Predator, AeroVironment's Raven UAV weighs in at just four pounds, has a mere 4-foot wingspan, and is designed to be carried by as few as two infantrymen. Quite a small package.

A strained segue
Speaking of small packages, while I, too, was impressed with AeroVironment's sales and earnings growth, the facts that really got my attention lay deeper within the earnings report. I had to dig through the report, the subsequent 10-Q filing, and data provider Capital IQ to see this picture, but I think you'll agree when you see it that it's pretty indeed.

Super-positive inventory divergence
From my perspective, the best news out of AeroVironment is that its inventories are falling -- and in the best way possible. Not only are inventories overall down 13% year over year, but within that broader category, the worst parts -- piles of unsold, finished goods -- are getting smaller, while the best parts -- raw materials and works-in-progress -- are actually growing.

Put into plain English, these trends show that AeroVironment's products are "flying off the shelves," faster than the company can assemble them. To keep up with the demand, the firm is stocking up on raw materials and parts to make more.

Learn more about AeroVironment in:

And learn more about positive inventory divergence (and similar Foolish concepts) in: Foolish Fundamentals: Inventory.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above.

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