February 8, 2002
Unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) have attracted enormous attention recently due to their extensive use during the war in Afghanistan. Twelve years ago, a small group of engineers started Aurora Flight Sciences with the goal of developing advanced UAVs specifically for global climate change research. Today, Aurora is involved not only in high altitude, long endurance designs such as Global Hawk and Perseus, but also micro air vehicles, optionally piloted aircraft, unmanned combat air vehicles, and designs for planetary research. This lecture will review the state of the art in UAV technology, describe the various programs and projects undertaken by Aurora during the past decade, and discuss possibilities and challenges as UAVs move towards wider utilization.
John S. Langford received his Ph.D. from MIT in the field of aeronautics and public policy and his Bachelor and Master of Science in aeronautics and astronautics and a Master of Science in defense policy and arms control, also from MIT. Dr. Langford is an aerospace industry entrepreneur who started Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation in 1989. Today he has primary responsibility for strategic planning, recruiting, and business development of Aurora and its subsidiaries. He has also been responsible for the basic design work on the Perseus proof-of-concept aircraft, Perseus A, Perseus B, Theseus, and Jason, a small aircraft used for planetary atmospheric research. Prior to starting Aurora, Langford was a research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses (1985-89), program manager for the MIT Daedalus human-powered aircraft project (1984-88), teaching assistant and research fellow at MIT (1981-84), engineer for the Lockheed-California Company on the development of the F-117 Stealth fighter (1979-81), and an analyst for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (1978-79). Dr. Langford led the development of five human-powered aircraft at MIT. The first was the Chrysalis (1979), for which he was a co-recipient of the MIT Luis DeFlorez Prize (May 1979). In 1983-84 he led the development of the Monarch that was awarded first prize in the Royal Aeronautical Society's Kremer World Speed Competition. He was also the recipient of the Young Engineer of the Year award from the AIAA National Capital Section in 1988, the National Tibbets Award for outstanding contributions to the SBIR Program in 1996, and the Barry M. Goldwater Educator Award from the AIAA in 2000.