Artificial intelligence (AI) is proving to be a real game changer in the aerospace industry as engineers are implementing various AI applications that are having a positive impact on aerospace. From manufacturing to customer relations, there’s nothing artificial about these changes that are making a real difference.

We’d like to take a closer look at the ways AI is impacting the aerospace industry and what it means for the future.

Streamlining the process

There are―literally―several moving parts to aerospace engineering. From the design process and prototyping to budgeting and manufacturing, artificial intelligence is setting the pace for streamlining design and manufacturing systems over the next 15 years.

Lightweight and sturdy parts

Think about it. Lighter airplane parts make for more efficient flying. The use of AI algorithms combined with generative design is helping designers develop new parts that are both lightweight and sustainable. Add in the use of 3D printing with AI-enabled generative design and you have a more efficient way to supply airplane generators and wings.

Here are some additional advantages of using artificial intelligence in the production design process. The use of AI can:

  • Perform inspections faster and more efficiently
  • Preserve gas
  • Improve operational effectivity
  • Improve proficiency of supply chain management, thanks to automated data
  • Be more economical
  • Research collected information from sensors that gather information―like temperature and moisture―and pinpoint faulty plane parts beforehand.

Fuel Reduction

Conserving fuel is a major concern in the aerospace industry. With almost 100,000 flights in the air every day across the globe, it’s no wonder experts are looking for ways to reduce gas consumption. Did you know industry forecasters estimated the global commercial aircraft industry could tap out at a record-breaking 97 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) gallons of fuel in 2019?

Previously, we mentioned how the use of AI―together with the assistance of 3D printing―can fabricate lightweight parts. This process, in turn, reduces fuel consumption. Now, let’s take that one step further. Airplanes use the most fuel on the climb. Experts say AI-created climb stage profiles can be created by using artificial intelligence models to analyze how much fuel is used by pilots during the climb phase. These profiles can then help streamline fuel usage so that pilots can adequately preserve fuel during flights. Less fuel means cleaner skies.

Simulator training

Pilots are gaining valuable training through AI simulators, combined with virtual reality frameworks. Here are a few cool ways AI is improving pilot training on the ground to keep us safer in the skies:

  • Pilots get a progressively realistic simulation experience
  • Training information is gathered and analyzed
  • AI used in a cockpit can improve a flightpath by:
    • Evaluating and alerting information on fuel levels
    • Determining framework status
    • Reporting climate conditions and other vital parameters


It goes without saying that safety is of the highest priority in the airplane industry. Artificial intelligence plays a significant role in keeping everyone safe by providing efficient options. Here are some of these options:

  • At the airport, AI-enabled cameras use facial recognition to identify suspicious individuals. (Some programs may even provide photographs of individuals with felony data.)
  • AI-enabled cameras can be used to detect malicious activity in the airport.
  • Threats and dangers can be detected by utilizing AI in machine studying and geospatial sign processing, as well as by the use of photographs and movies extracted from aerial automobiles and satellites.

Customer experience

There are two words that come to mind in regard to consumers: customer satisfaction and loyalty. The airline industry knows this. With their competition flying past them in the skies, it’s up to the particular airlines to rise above their competitors when it comes to making their customers happy. But is using artificial intelligence really the answer? You would think customers would want human interaction, but the latest statistics show otherwise. AI-enabled chatbots (yes, chatbots) are today’s latest conversation starters. Chatbots are digital devices that simulate conversation with human users and answer any requests and questions in real time. Here’s how the current use of chatbots breaks down by location and industry:

  • Aircraft—14 percent
  • Airport terminals—9 percent
  • Future use in airline industry—68 percent of airlines want to utilize AI-driven chatbots
  • Emirates Vacations, part of Emirates Airlines, saw an 87 percent expansion in the engagement of chatbot-incorporated advertisements following a 30-day trial campaign when compared to standard advertisements.

As fascinating a role AI plays in our daily lives, it’s important to remember that it takes the knowledge and skill of humans to make it all possible.

Are you interested in pursuing a futureproof career? Discover all that’s possible with an engineering degree from Vaughn College.

“Star Wars” fans are encountering a galactic flight experience after United Airlines unveiled its “Star Wars”-themed Boeing 737-800 aircraft in November to celebrate the franchise’s highly anticipated final chapter, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which opened in December 2019.

Joining Forces

United Airlines joined forces with the “Star Wars” franchise to promote the epic conclusion of the Skywalker saga. The airline upped their game for its MileagePlus members by offering them the opportunity to use their miles to bid on and buy exclusive “Star Wars”-themed items and experiences. To round out the partnership, United Airlines recruited some of its employees to star in a “Star Wars”-themed commercial which aired through January 2020.

An “Out-of-This-Galaxy” Experience

The airline pulled out all the stops to give “Star Wars” fans a fun “out-of-this-galaxy” experience, both on and off the plane. As part of the newest plane in the United Airlines fleet, the exterior of this unique aircraft has a new paint design depicting the “Star Wars” galaxy which captures the imagery of the X-wing and TIE fighter starships. There are even different colored lightsabers painted on each side of the tail depicting the two alliances. Pretty cool stuff!

The interior of the plane sets the mood for an exciting onboard experience. Passengers are welcomed aboard while the movie’s iconic soundtrack plays in the background—setting the tone for things to come. As passengers approach their seats, it’s hard to miss the headrests embossed with the film’s dueling factions, the Resistance and the First Order. The inflight safety video demonstration has never been so fun, as passengers are instructed by characters from the new film, along with some of the most beloved “Star Wars” favorites such as Yoda and Chewbacca. There’s even a plaque signifying the relationship between United Airlines and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” and passengers receive a themed amenity kit, too!

The Saga Continues

Attention all Jedis: Be on the lookout as the United “Star Wars” plane makes its way through the airline’s galaxy covering the United States, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean. Unable to book a flight? You can try catching a glimpse of the unique aircraft at the airport by tracking its movements―as well as past and future flights―on FlightAware, considered to be the world’s largest online tracking platform. Simply enter the plane’s tail number—N36272—and look for the X-Wing starship on the tracking map.

May the Force be with you!

Are you looking for a futureproof career? At Vaughn, we offer a wide range of aviation, management and engineering and technology degrees that make it possible. Apply today.

The possibility of having a 3D-printed component placed in the human body is here. Today, the advancement of 3D printing is revolutionizing the medical industry, allowing medical professionals to create patient-specific devices such as prosthetics, dental restorations and even orthopedic and cranial implants more efficiently, quickly and economically. The flexibility in this emerging technology is a true gamechanger as it makes these devices more accessible to patients.

Picture perfect

The precision and flexibility of 3D printing enables designers to customize the parts for fitting perfectly with each patient’s anatomy. The ability to create these devices quickly and efficiently for an affordable cost gives doctors and patients more healthcare options.

Here are some examples of medical 3D printing applications:

  • Fully functional replacement limbs
  • Hearing aides
  • Orthopedic implants
  • Cranial implants
  • Dental implants
  • Surgical instruments
  • Detailed models of organs, bones and blood cells now allow doctors and nurses to study patients from all angles
  • Surgical guides to provide surgeons with extreme precision

Here are some benefits of medical 3D printing:

  • Customization—Parts can be shaped to perfectly fit a patient’s anatomy.
  • Sterilization—Most materials used can be sterilized by steam autoclave or gamma radiation.
  • Speed—Hospitals can use on-demand 3D manufacturing for quick turnaround time.
  • Cost—Custom medical devices such as prosthetics and implants cost considerably less.

What is 3D printing?

The process of 3D printing involves creating three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file by laying down layers of material—one on top of the other—until the final object is created.

How the parts are made

For the medical industry, imaging processes and detailed scanning are necessary steps for the creation of 3D-printed components. First, laser scanning is used to take detailed images of the patient’s surface. Then, MRI imaging and CT scanning are performed to see cross-sectional images of bones and tissues. Once the imaging has been completed, specialized software turns the images into complete models that can be used for 3D printing.

Emerging global market

Did you know the medical industry accounts for about 13 percent of all 3D-printing revenue? The numbers get even better.

According to Technavio, a leading global market research company, the market for 3D-printing medical devices is forecasted to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of more than 23 percent by 2023. This impressive momentum and projected growth are driven by many factors which include an increased focus on research and development to improve upon existing devices and for designing new combinations of 3D-printed medical devices.

On the horizon

As medical 3D printing continues to make its mark in the industry, scientists are in the early stages of researching a more far-reaching possibility—the manufacture of living organs such as a heart or liver using the 3D-printing process. The hope of this becoming a reality at one time in the future opens a realm of life-saving possibilities for patients around the world who may not have had a second chance at life.

Vaughn is in the game

Vaughn College is at the forefront of 3D-printing technology, thanks to a 3D-prototyping innovation center that was opened a few years ago. It is equipped with 15 3D printers and two 3D scanners which provide students with hands-on opportunities to transform their concepts into physical objects. Students in the College’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) club and robotics club are doing just that—using 3D printers to make parts for their drones and competitive robots.

Learn more about earning an engineering and technology degree at Vaughn.

The reality of electric airplanes may be closer than you think. Earlier this month at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards Air Force Base, NASA unveiled the X-57 “Maxwell,” the agency’s first experimental electric aircraft and NASA’s first manned X-plane in 20 years.

The X-Factor

Electric propulsion technology is the driving force behind the advance of this new era of aviation that can make planes quieter, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. NASA’s aeronautical innovators are on the cusp of demonstrating these revolutionary aviation milestones. Here are a few of the ways the NASA X-57 will accomplish these advancements and address some of today’s pressing passenger concerns. The X-57 will:

  • Be powered solely by batteries, eliminating carbon emissions
  • Demonstrate how demand could lower the need for the lead-based aviation fuel which is currently being used today
  • Reduce noise levels compared to conventional piston engines
  • Be equipped with a specially designed wing and 14 electric motors
  • Reduce flight times and fuel usage
  • Reduce overall operating costs for small aircraft by 40 percent

Vaughn students stay ahead of industry trends and learn about these types of advancements by hearing from the several industry experts from a variety of influential companies such as Airbus and Pratt & Whitney who come to the College to speak on topics such as these. Vaughn also hosts several internship, career and graduate fairs throughout the year, so there are many opportunities for networking and planning for future careers. Vaughn also sponsors student club and association trips to engineering, technology, management and aviation conferences where students present research, learn about technical advances and create connections for potential job opportunities. Check out the events and news pages for upcoming events and happenings at the college.

Years in the making

NASA’s X-planes date back almost 75 years to the invention of the Bell X-1, which put supersonic flight on the map. Since then, X-planes have been used by NASA, the US Air Force and other government agencies to explore the flight mechanics of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), movable wings and other aviation advancements.

In 2015, NASA began its journey working on the X-57, but not in a way you might imagine. Instead of building the plane from the ground up, NASA started modifying an Italian twin-engine propeller plane called Tecnam P2006T. You might be wondering why they chose to use a small propeller plane for such a groundbreaking task. The reason lies in how the aerodynamics proved to be more favorable for an electric airplane that uses propellers.

There’s no denying the modification of the NASA X-57 is an exciting experience, but that’s just one piece of the equation. What about training the pilots to fly an electric airplane? NASA flight control engineers and technicians developed an interactive X-57 simulator at their Armstrong Flight Research Center in California to provide pilots with a virtual flight experience based on what the X-57 would feel like in the air. This simulator experience prepared pilots for future X-57 flight-testing phases and helped familiarize them with reaction times and maneuvers.

Taking it one step at a time

The X-57 Maxwell project consists of four configurations and stages of research distinguished by specific modifications. Currently, the X-57 is in its “Mod II” configuration that features the first all-electric flight hardware. The third phase began at the same time as Mod II to take the X-57 to a new level of electric-powered flight. Some of the most notable and noticeable changes from the Mod II configuration include:

  • Using electric cruise motors to replace the two combustion motors that were in the original aircraft
  • Development and integration of an experimental high-speed ratio wing
  • Reduction in wing area, which contributes to more efficient cruise flight through decreasing friction drag

With the Mod III configuration currently in the works, it’s all about the wing. This upgrade will make space for additional electric propellers and a high-aspect-ratio design to allow the current pair of electric motors to move the wingtips. The final product will feature six small propellers on each wing to be situated on the leading edge along with a larger propeller at the tip.

Nearing the launch

The X-57 hasn’t taken to the skies yet, but NASA says it’s ready for its debut and is hoping to fly it in its final configuration by late 2020. Although the X-57 won’t be as fast and have the ability to fly the same long distances as traditional aircraft, the agency says the electric airplane’s range is suitable for short flights that will be quieter and more efficient.

Vaughn makes it possible

Exciting advancements in aviation technology begin with the knowledge to make it happen. Are you looking for a futureproof career? At Vaughn, we offer a wide range of aviation and engineering and technology degrees to make it possible. Apply today.


November is National Aviation History Month, when the accomplishments and milestone achievements of men and women aviators are recognized. In honor of this celebration, Vaughn College has chronicled some of the industry’s most momentous first flights in the history of aviation. Test your knowledge to see how many you know.

1783—First Hot-Air Balloon Flight

Inspired by a paper bag rising on the flow of heated air, French brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier launched their first hot air balloon, which carried a sheep, a duck and a rooster.

1852—First Powered Flight

Jules Henri Giffard, a French engineer and inventor, built the first full-size steam-powered airship. This first powered flight took off 51 years before that of the famous Wright Brothers.

1884—First Roundtrip Flight

French Army Corps of Engineers Charles Renard and Arthur C. Krebs were the inventors and military officers who became credited with building an elongated balloon that successfully took off―flew five miles―and landed at the same location.

1903—The Wright Brothers and the First Flight

Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright pioneered the principles for the first powered airplane when they flew their Wright Flyer on a 12-second test flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

1911—First United States (US) Woman Pilot

Harriet Quimby, an early American aviator and movie screenwriter, was the first woman to be awarded a US pilot’s certificate in the United States. She was also the first woman to fly across the English Channel. As a result of these accomplishments, she is credited for influencing the role of women in aviation.

1914—World’s First Commercial Airline

Passengers aboard The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line made history on the world’s first commercial airline service between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida—in just 20 minutes.

1927—Charles Lindbergh and the First Solo Transatlantic Flight

Charles Lindbergh―American aviator, military officer, author, inventor and activist―made history as he piloted the Spirit of St. Louis down the dirt runway of Roosevelt Field in New York and landed in Paris 34 hours later, making him the first pilot to solo a nonstop trans-Atlantic flight.

1947—Breaking the Sound Barrier

Aboard the US Air Force experimental rocket Bell X-1, renowned United States Air Force officer and flying ace Chuck Yeager was the first pilot to exceed the speed of sound.

1958—First Domestic Jet Passenger Service

National Airlines is credited with the inaugural jet passenger service between New York and Miami.

1961—The First Man in Space

Aboard the Soviet Vostok 1 spacecraft, Yuri Gagarin was the first human to travel in space. His 108- minute orbit of the Earth launched the era of manned spaceflight and escalated the race between the US and the Soviet Union, which ultimately led to the first manned moon mission.

1969—Apollo 11: First Men on the Moon

US astronauts Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin were the first men to set foot on the moon, where they left behind their footprints, part of the spacecraft and an American flag.

1971—Salyut 1: The First Space Station

The Salyut 1 was the world’s first space station that helped develop methods for living and working in space over long periods of time.

1981—Space Shuttle Exploration

Exactly 20 years after Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, the space shuttle Columbia blasted into space on its first historic flight. Over the next 30 years, this space shuttle and its four sister ships carried more than 850 astronauts into space, despite the tragedies that would befall the Challenger, and in time, Columbia itself.

1993—First Woman Co-pilot on Commercial Supersonic Plane

British Airways pilot Barbara Harmer was the first woman to fly as first officer on the Concorde from London to New York City.

2005—First Non-stop Solo Flight Around the World Without Refueling

Steve Fossett―American businessman, adventurer and record-setting aviator―set the record for the first non-stop solo flight around the world without refueling. Flying aboard the Virgin Atlantic “Globalflyer,” Fossett travelled almost 23,000 miles around the world, beginning at Salina, Kansas and arriving back 67 hours later.

2017—First All-Female Flight Crew

Southwest Airlines celebrated its first all-female flight crew of two pilots and four flight attendants.

2018—First Space Mission Where US Astronauts Were Women

NASA flight engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and NASA astronaut Anne McClain made history in Expedition 57―the first space mission where the only two astronauts representing the United States were both female.

2019—First All-Female Spacewalk

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir floated into the history books when they became NASA’s first all-female spacewalk. Koch and Meir were the first US female astronauts to venture outside of the International Space Station.

First experiences leave lasting impressions that can pave the way to future endeavors. Are you ready to take the first step toward a career in aviation? See all that’s possible with an aviation degree from Vaughn College.


Drone enthusiasts are flying high in the month of November as the first-ever National Drone Safety Awareness Week kicked off on Monday, November 4, 2019. This week-long event was promoted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help educate the public about drone safety and spread awareness by providing support to the drone community.

Are you interested in earning your drone pilot license or do you just want to learn more about the exciting world of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)? Check out how Vaughn College celebrated this inaugural event to peak your passion in becoming a drone pilot.

Vaughn Celebrated National Drone Safety Awareness Week

In honor of the FAA’s Drone Safety Awareness Week, Vaughn invites you to be a part of the drone community by:

  • Enrolling in a drone course: Drone Laws and Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems
  • FAA Eastern Region Regional Administrator, Jennifer Solomon, was on campus on Friday, November 8, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. to discuss drone safety and the need for young talent at the FAA
  • Joining the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Club
  • Attending International Drone Day in May 2020

A Week of Drone Safety

Whether someone is currently a drone pilot, is thinking about becoming one, or just wants to learn the latest about safe drone operations for recreational use, there’s something for everyone. Some of the topics explored included how public safety agencies are using drones to create safer communities; how drones are instrumental in infrastructure and agriculture; how drones are revolutionizing commercial and medical package delivery; and how drone photography helps the real estate and insurance business.

Why Drone Safety is Important

Operating a drone is a privilege. It comes with great responsibility, along with the education and understanding of operation within the FAA guidelines. Keeping the world’s safest and most efficient aerospace is the FAA’s primary mission—and drones are part of that responsibility.

Today, drones are being used more than ever before, making communities safer while providing enhanced career opportunities to pilots. So, how does one become a drone pilot? If this is a career possibility that interests you, learn how Vaughn sets the pace to help you earn your Remote Pilot Certificate.

Staying the Course

Flying a commercial drone requires a Remote Pilot Certificate. “At Vaughn, we offer the courses you need that lead to certification so you can start working in your field sooner than later,” said Loretta Alkalay, adjunct professor at Vaughn College. “Enrolling in our Drone Law course is a great place to start. It’s one of the key safety benefits to becoming a drone pilot.” Alkalay teaches drone law at Vaughn and brings years of experience as an aviation attorney and former regional counsel for the FAA. Her personal passion of taking photographs with drones earned her a two-page spread in UAS Magazine.

A few reasons students are encouraged to take this course include:

  • Acquiring a better understanding of controlled and uncontrolled airspace
  • Understanding weather patterns and how it impacts flying
  • Learning about aerodynamic issues
  • Gaining the power of professionalism

In August 2016, the FAA released Part 107, which provides information to individuals who are interested in obtaining their Remote Pilot Certificate.

Current recreational drone safety rules at a glance

The FAA is committed to drone safety. Here’s a quick glance of the current recreational rules to keep in mind:

  • Register your drone―the cost is $5
  • Fly drone at or below 400 feet
  • Keep drone within your line of sight
  • Be aware of FAA Airspace Restrictions
  • Respect privacy
  • Don’t act foolish
  • Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
  • Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
  • Never fly near emergencies such as fires or hurricane recovery efforts
  • Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Are you interested in the aviation industry or becoming a drone pilot? Discover all that’s possible with an aviation degree from Vaughn College.

RoboBee is all the buzz this year. This insect-inspired microrobot drone which is half the size of a paperclip “flew” its way into the history books in August 2019 as the lightest vehicle to take a sustained, untethered solo flight. With the help of a second pair of wings and other modifications, Harvard researchers nicknamed the bot RoboBee “X-Wing,” after the four-winged starfighters from “Star Wars,” cutting its power cord for the first time as it achieved this groundbreaking flight.

Vaughn College is spotlighting this exciting advancement in robotics and electrical engineering to show how groups of tiny robots like RoboBee may someday be invaluable in search and rescue missions, surveillance, environmental monitoring and even crop pollination; similar to how experts see the larger purpose of drones in the future. (Read about Vaughn’s robotics team, former winners of the VEX Worlds Robotics Competition and how the team continues to up its game each year at the competition.)

Busy as a bee

With decades of research under its belt, a research robotics team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute is credited with revolutionary breakthroughs in manufacturing, materials and design to make this untethered flight happen. They developed a flapping wing system made of a composite material and constructed it through a process called laser machining. For nearly a decade, RoboBee remained tethered. Adding another set of wings to RoboBee and less visible changes to the actuators and transmission ratio gave the microrobot enough lift for researchers to attach solar cells to an electronics panel located under the bee.

Inspired by nature

For centuries, animal flight has fascinated and inspired scientists to develop machines that can fly with the use of flapping wings. Nature and bees were the motivation behind RoboBee to simulate the way bees fly―working both independently and collectively and even pollenating flowers. The vision was to develop autonomous micro aerial vehicles capable of self-contained, self-directed flight, and to achieve coordinated behavior in large groups―just like natural bees. As mentioned before, these lightweight, tiny robots measure about half the size of a paper clip and weigh less than one-tenth of a gram. So, how did they do it?

Simulating a real bee, researchers designed the RoboBee into three main components, consisting of the Body, Brain and Colony. This is how each component was developed:

  • Body—Fly on its own aided by a compact and integrated power source
  • Brain—“Smart” sensors and control electronics mimic the eyes and antennae of a bee and can sense and respond to the environment
  • Colony—Coordinate the behavior of several independent robots to work together as an effective unit

Outdoor flight out of reach―for now

The latest advancements may have the RoboBee X-Wing flying solo in the lab, but more work is needed to make outdoor flight possible. The reason lies with the amount of solar power needed to fuel the solar cells which will enable the microrobots to fly outside. Currently, the RoboBee X-Wing requires the power of approximately three Earth suns to fly. Wow! That’s a lot of energy. With the help of halogen lights, researchers can simulate this enormous level of sunlight in the lab to keep the RoboBees in a state of sustained untethered flight.

Are you interested in robotics and mechatronic engineering? Discover all that’s possible with an engineering and technology degree from Vaughn College.

Photo credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

What do you think of when you hear the term, “flying cars”? Maybe a sci-fi movie or even a throwback to an old cartoon comes to mind, where a futuristic object would transport passengers in the air instead of on the ground. How cool was that, right? The reality, however, is that the future is in the making. Wondering how this could be possible? Remember these three words: “urban air mobility.”

What is urban air mobility?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) defines urban air mobility as a “system for air passenger and cargo transportation within an urban area, inclusive of small package delivery and other urban unmanned aircraft systems services.” In other words, NASA’s vision of this new era in air travel is ensuring safe and efficient air transportation as a revolutionary way of safely moving people and cargo from one place to another in congested environments.

How many times have you sat in traffic and wished you could fly over the gridlock? Urban air mobility could change that, as small air taxis are the next generation of autonomous electric passenger air vehicles (PAV) that could fly small groups of travelers above populated areas faster and cleaner than ground vehicles.

NASA is exploring the reality of urban air mobility, thanks to the combined efforts of new business models and transportation technology tied to both aviation―and some outside the industry―to determine what is required to make it happen. The urban air mobility subproject of NASA’s Air Traffic Management Exploration project (ATM-X) is currently in the process of exploring various use cases and testing technologies to with stakeholders in the aviation community.

Safety first

Admit it. The safety factor crossed your mind when you first read about urban air mobility. The thought of travelling in a “flying car”―as fun as that may sound―would make anyone think twice. And with good reason. Urban air mobility operations use unmanned aircraft (UA), which operate with no pilot on board. Today, small delivery drones are in operation, but when it comes to securing the acceptance of regulators and the general public for passenger use, the stakes go up. Here’s why: Without a pilot on board, there’s nobody to “see and avoid” potential collisions with other airspace users, severe weather conditions and other dangerous situations such as flying near bridges, buildings and other man-made structures.

The good news is that even considering the challenges, NASA says they have a handle on it. They are working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other government agencies, along with airspace operators, vehicle developers and academia to identify and overcome significant barriers and challenges. On the flip side, urban air mobility comes with substantial cost advantages over traditional ground travel and air transportation which require heavy infrastructure such as roads, rail, bridges, tunnels or airports—not to mention a significant reduction in a traveler’s commute time.

Investing in the future

Recent NASA-commissioned market studies revealed that by the year 2030, as many as 500 million flights per year for package delivery services and 750 million flights per year in air metro services could catapult urban air mobility as a relevant and lucrative enterprise.

According to the groundbreaking study, “Urban Air Mobility―Economics and Global Markets,” published by Nexa Advisors and the Vertical Flight Society, $318 billion could be invested over the next 20 years to transform urban air mobility in 74 cities around the world. This anticipated value of the urban air mobility market includes the infrastructure of vertiports and air traffic management, along with aircraft operated in-airport shuttle services, on-demand air taxis, emergency services, business aviation and regional point-to-point charters. This report is a first attempt to identify the cost of urban air mobility infrastructure―estimated at $32 billion for all 74 cities by the year 2040―and is intended to guide prospective investors about current transportation issues, congestion and population density, among other factors. Despite the hefty $32 billion price tag, the study suggests potential revenues from this infrastructure could exceed $244 billion.

Do you want to be a part of paving the way towards the adoption of urban air mobility? Check out all of the engineering and technology degrees available at Vaughn, as well as the many opportunities to participate in various engineering clubs such as Robotics Club and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Club that allow hands-on design and construction of transportation technology.

The aviation industry may have a renewed “beacon” of hope for search and rescue missions. Recently, the FAA has incorporated recommendations by NASA’s Search and Rescue (SAR) to install and maintain Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) on airplanes. These NASA-designed satellite-aided search and rescue beacons―or ELTs―are instrumental in saving lives when it matters most and improving overall aviation safety.

Taking a renewed look at ELTs performance

Developed by NASA over 40 years ago, ELTs are beacons that are designed to automatically transmit distress signals to satellites in the event of a plane crash. In the past, the failure of some ELTs to work properly shed renewed light on the beacons’ safety and performance issues. As recently as 2010, a sea plane carrying nine passengers crashed in Alaska, claiming the lives of five passengers, including former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. Former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe was among the four survivors. The failure of the plane’s ELT to activate stranded the survivors for a harrowing 12 hours until they were found by search and rescue teams.

Crash course in ELT research

The 2010 Alaska accident sparked NASA’s SAR team to launch a comprehensive study of ELT nonperformance. After reviewing thousands of crash reports, the SAR office determined that ELT failure was responsible for the loss of about 58 lives each year. Such tragic news set the wheels in motion for SAR to use NASA aeronautics expertise to study ELTs in simulated crash conditions. Using three decommissioned Cessna 172 aircraft at the Landing and Impact Research Facility―also known as the “gantry”―at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the SAR team hoisted the planes at varying heights and crashed them from three different configurations into a slab of dirt. With numerous ELTs installed on each plane, the SAR team studied each beacon to determine survivability and the causes of ELT failure in aviation distress.

Improving survivability and airplane safety

Imagine taking the search out of “search and rescue?” The survivability study revealed how making only a few adjustments to the installation would greatly improve ELT performance and airplane safety. Some of the ways the SAR team adjusted the installation of ELTs to improve performance included:

  • Mounting the ELT to a more rigid structure to decrease the likelihood of shear and cable detachment
  • Adding relief hooks to cabling to give the cable the slack it needed to prevent it from unplugging from the ELT
  • Adding an inexpensive fireproof sleeve to cabling to add vital minutes of ELT transmission in the event of a fire

Taking Next-gen SAR technology out of this world

NASA’s continuing efforts in ELT technology could take the second-generation of distress beacons to the moon. The SAR office is developing next-gen beacons that will use a new constellation of satellite-based search and rescue instruments. These new miniature beacons will offer significantly improved location accuracy and detection times. This exciting development will not only take this next generation of beacons worldwide, but out of this world―literally―as NASA is planning on using them on Artemis astronauts’ life preservers to ensure their accurate location upon splashdown from the Orion capsule.

Interested in supporting aerospace initiatives like this? An engineering and technology degree from Vaughn College will open the door to many opportunities involving the design and construction of aircraft equipment. Many Vaughn mechatronic engineering graduates become interns at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, such as Joseph Kamel. Explore all the possibilities of a futureproof career at Vaughn.


A hurricane is part of Mother Nature’s fury which can endanger thousands of people in its path. Aviation weather forecasting plays a tremendous role in the determination of flight safety. But did you ever wonder how meteorologists obtain the data they need to monitor the intensity and track of this kind of storm to keep us out of harm’s way? If you answered, “hurricane hunters,” then you’re right on track. There’s no denying that hurricane hunters are well-trained pilots. As an institution of learning that offers a wide range of aviation and flight degrees, Vaughn College sets the pace for this adventurous career path. This month, Vaughn highlights a unique area of the aviation industry by discussing the vital role hurricane hunters play in saving lives.

Who are hurricane hunters?

Hurricane hunters are aircrews that are part of the United States Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, aligned under the 403rd Wing and located at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. Today’s basic five-member aircrew includes a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight meteorologist and weather reconnaissance loadmaster. They are called upon by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida to collect and retrieve necessary storm data. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is a one-of-a-kind organization as it is the only operational military weather reconnaissance unit in the world.

Hurricane hunters are not new to the aviation industry. In fact, the first manned flight occurred in 1943―on a dare―after two military pilots challenged each other to fly into the eye of a hurricane. Little did they know then how that bet would pave the way to today’s aviation weather forecasting of tropical cyclones. Seventy-six years later, a special all-female aircrew made history as it flew into Hurricane Dorian.

Hurricane Dorian: All-female hurricane hunter flight crew makes history

Last month, the first-ever all-female hurricane hunter flight crew made history when it gathered storm data on Hurricane Dorian. Amidst the danger of a major hurricane, the three-pilot flight crew flew a mission into the dangerous storm, marking the first time in 76 years that an all-female hurricane hunter flight crew stormed an Atlantic Ocean hurricane. More women in aviation are being recognized for their impact in the field. Way to go, ladies!

So, why are hurricane hunters critical to keeping the public safe? Read on to learn about their daring missions. (Are you interested in a career as a pilot? Check out the top 10 reasons for becoming a pilot.)

What do hurricane hunters do?

The mission of the aircrews is to fly directly into a tropical cyclone to gather the necessary data required to accurately assess the intensity and track of the storm. Specially modified U.S. Air Force planes typically used to drop off troops and supplies in war zones are flown by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron to maneuver through the storm. If you’ve ever tracked one of these storms―or worse―lived in the potential path of one, then you know how the track and intensity of the storm can change like the wind (pun intended). So, how do these crews gather the data?

Eye in the sky

At about 10,000 feet, the crew drops Global Positioning System (GPS) sensors while flying directly through the eye to the hurricane’s edge and repeats this pattern as often as four times. This allows the crew to gather information about the storm’s speed, direction and winds. Each mission takes eight hours and alternating crews fly continuously through the course of the storm. The data from each mission is transmitted back to the National Hurricane Center where it is compiled, analyzed and released to news and weather outlets who then relay the information to the public.

Vaughn cares

Hurricane Dorian made landfall as a “category five” hurricane earlier this month, having caused catastrophic damage to several Bahamian islands. The Vaughn community’s thoughts are with those affected by Dorian, including our students, their friends and families.

Both men and women in the field play a crucial role in the safety of flight, management of airlines and engineering of flight technology. And reports like this reinforce the contributions of women in aviation. Are you inspired to take your career to new heights? Check out all that’s possible with an aviation degree from Vaughn, where the programs offered are suited to many diverse interests in the field.