One of Latitude’s hybrid quad-rotor drones flies over a research vessel owned by the California-based Schmidt Ocean Institute.

Defense giant L3 Technologies has quietly set up shop in Tucson with the acquisition of locally based Latitude Engineering LLC, a provider of hybrid quad-rotor drones.

New York City-based L3 acquired Latitude in late June for $15 million cash, with additional payments of up to $20 million based on certain performance milestones over four years, according to documents filed with federal securities regulators.

Founded by University of Arizona mechanical engineering grad Jason Douglas, Latitude has developed hybrid unmanned aircraft that combine a quadcopter’s four rotors for vertical takeoff and landing with a propeller for speedy horizontal flight.

L3, 744 S. Euclid Ave., has retained all 30 of Latitude’s employees at the company, now known as L3 Latitude Engineering.

Douglas could not be reached for comment.

With annual revenues of nearly $9 billion and about 31,000 employees worldwide, L3 provides products and services across three main business segments: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; electronics; and communications.

L3, which did not announce the Latitude acquisition outside of securities filings, declined to elaborate on its plans for the Tucson operation but called Latitude a “great fit” in a prepared statement.

“Latitude Engineering is a great fit for L3’s vision as we grow as a prime contractor,” the company said. “We are excited about including Latitude’s unique capabilities as we pursue new business opportunities. We’ve also benefited from our business presence in Arizona for years and are thrilled to expand our local footprint with this acquisition.”

L3 has an office in Phoenix for Aviation Communication & Surveillance Systems, a joint venture with France-based aerospace and defense contractor Thales Group, and for commercial-aviation work, as well as a facility in Tempe that makes electro-optical tubes for night-vision equipment.

Latitude was one of two Tucson companies that were part of a team that last year claimed a new U.S. record for long-distance urban delivery by a drone, using cellphone networks to help navigate a simulated 97-mile trip.

Team Roadrunner, a Nevada unmanned aircraft consortium that included Latitude and Tucson-based AUV Flight Services, conducted the flight in Texas in early May.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz

Senior reporter covering business and technology for the Arizona Daily Star/Tucson.com