Founded in 1991 and originally based in Salem, OH., Theiss Aviation, Inc. designed, built, and tested
Light Homebuilt and Ultralight Aircraft for General Aviation. The company developed
and refined an inexpensive, light-weight construction method that proved to be very
strong and easy to work with for aircraft applications. As seen in the above picture,
Theiss Aviation, Inc. was able to produce aircraft that resembled popular aircraft
from the 1920's and 30's, but at a weight and performance level that classified them
as Ultralights. Through numerous national and international magazine articles,
Theiss Aviation, Inc. was exposed to all realms of aviation and their members.
"Speedster" taking off
"Speedster" on climb out
In 1998, The Head of the Tactical Electronic Warfare Division's Offboard Countermeasures
Vehicle Research Section for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratories (Washington, D.C.)
contacted Theiss Aviation, Inc. after reading one of the aforementioned magazine articles.
The military was in need of light-weight, expendable Tactical UAVs, and Theiss Aviation
seemed to have the solution! Within 90 days of the first meeting with NRL, Theiss Aviation
delivered their first Tactical UAV. Named the Theiss "Tarzan" (Called Dakota II by the NRL),
the UAV was jointly designed by NRL and Theiss Aviation, Inc.. Theiss Aviation performed all
structural design and construction from "the ground up" utilizing the unique construction
method. The Tarzan (version "A") was designed to disassemble for easy transport and storage,
and boasted an 18 ft. wingspan with an empty weight of 65 lbs.; 5 pounds lighter than the
requested maximum empty weight!
Tarzan "B" folded (left) and unfolded for flight (above)
Theiss Aviation, Inc. was awarded a contract for an additional four aircraft to be used
on shipboard. Because of the rugged requirements for shipboard use, the UAV underwent minor
modifications to produce the Tarzan "B". This version involved using plywood skin over the
entire aircraft as opposed to the lighter fabric covered "A" version. The aircraft also
received heavy duty landing gears and a larger "Heavy-fuel" engine of 25 hp. But the most
significant modification was the aircraft's ability to fold from an 18 ft. wingspan UAV into
a 5.5' x 6.5' unit for transportation.
Tarzan "Stress" test (above) and in flight (below)
Today, Theiss Aviation, Inc. is no longer involved in General Aviation, but instead has
focused all efforts to supplying the Department of Defense with quality, inexpensive, high
performance UAVs. Currently, Theiss Aviation, Inc. is working with several other entities on
Target UAVs, V/STOL designs, Small Scale Tactical UAVs, and Man Portable UAVs.