What happened

Shares of AeroVironment Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV) were up 18.9% as of 1:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday after the unmanned aircraft systems specialist announced strong fiscal first-quarter 2018 results.

More specifically -- and noting the fiscal first quarter is its lightest in terms of sales and profits -- AeroVironment's quarterly revenue climbed 21% year over year to $43.8 million, or near the high end of its guidance for revenue of $40 million to $44 million. On the bottom line, that translated to a net loss of $4.4 million, or $0.19 per share, narrowed from a loss of $11.6 million, or $0.51 per share in the same year-ago period. Here again, that was significantly ahead of guidance for a per-share loss of $0.32 to $0.40.

AeroVironment's Puma unmanned aircraft

Image source: AeroVironment.

So what

Within AeroVironment's top line, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) revenue climbed 18.9% to $36.3 million, while efficient energy systems revenue grew 31.3% to $7.5 million. Meanwhile, AeroVironment CEO Wahid Nawabi credited the quarter's better-than-expected profitability to a combination of favorable product mix, lower-than-planned operating expenses, and a $1 million income tax benefit stemming from vesting of stock-based compensation.

In addition, AeroVironment's funded backlog at quarter's end climbed 9.4% sequentially to $85.3 million, offering the company a welcome boost in visibility for the rest of the year. 

Now what

AeroVironment reiterated its previous guidance for full fiscal-year revenue between $280 million and $300 million, and for earnings per diluted share of between $0.45 and $0.65. That said, it seemed management was exercising caution as they looked forward; Nawabi elaborated during the subsequent conference call that operating expenses are set to increase for the remainder of the year, and revenue mix tends to shift along with the timing of various contracts.

Nonetheless, this was a great quarter from AeroVironment, with little not to like from an investor's perspective. I think the market is right to so ferociously bid up the stock in response today.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.