Pilots? For most of its products, Aurora Flight Sciences doesn't need pilots (at least not ones who sit in a cockpit of a plane). The company makes unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, aka drones), and composite structures for aircraft with both military and scientific applications. It also provides flight operations and testing services for a variety of aircraft. Customers include major aerospace contractors, such as
and US government agencies. Aurora Flight Sciences, along with
Georgia Institute of Technology
, is developing next-generation distributed controllers for turbine engines for the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Aurora Flight Sciences operates from facilities in Massachusetts, Mississippi, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Although defense spending is expected to decline in the near future, Aurora Flight Sciences is poised to benefit from an increased interest in unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV). According to published reports, the
US Department of Defense
will spend as much as $3 billion per year on UCAVs between 2010 and 2019.
Orion is in development for the
US Air Force
to provide an affordable, 5-day endurance, Multi-Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance platform for the changing global security environment. Orion will be capable of flying with 1,000 lbs of payload at 20,000 ft. for 120 hrs.
It is also developing the Skate® Small Unmanned Aerial System (SUAS) -- a lightweight, easily transported system, capable of autonomous operation while delivering long endurance on quiet electric power.
Aurora is also combining its unmanned expertise with more traditional aircraft navigation. The company has been testing its Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA). The OPA can be flown by a pilot or as an unmanned aircraft.
To keep up with demand, in 2013 Aurora completed the construction of a 30,000-sq.-ft. $17 million plant at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport in Columbus, Mississippi. The new facility will allow the company to increase its commercial composites manufacturing operations, creating 250 new jobs.
Company president John Langford founded Aurora Flight Sciences in 1989.