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16 A s an inspiration for a career in engineering, the sheer spectacle of rockets launching people, satellites or unmanned planetary probes is hard to beat. Jennifer Andrews was hooked by the Space Shuttle, which she cites as a very strong force that shaped her imagination during her childhood in Arkansas, in the US. “When I found out what an engineer was, it was natural for me to gravitate towards aerospace engineering,” she says. Andrews, 46, now leads Bell’s efforts under NASA’s Systems Integration and Operationalization (SIO) programme. Its goal is to enable routine commercial UAV operations in the US National Airspace System above 500 ft with vehicles of 55 lb and heavier. This involves integrating detect & avoid (DAA) and command & control (C2) technologies, as well as type certification for UAV systems. The focus of these efforts is the APT-70, a 300 lb, bi-wing tail-sitter whose moniker abbreviates Autonomous Pod Transport and hints at its 70 lb payload, though not at its intended humanitarian mission of transporting blood or organs for transplant while overflying city traffic congestion. “We are looking at advancing beyond visual line of sight technologies and what it requires to certify the aircraft for those technologies,” Andrews says. Stealthy work Favouring maths and science at school, Andrews went on to study aerospace engineering at the University of Oklahoma before joining Lockheed Martin in Georgia for three years. There she worked on programmes including the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter and the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. Work on the Raptor involved a lot of detailed structural design, and her stint at Lockheed Martin imparted some valuable lessons. She says, “This was a time when they were getting ready for first flight on the aircraft and working on an early set of modifications. I learned the importance of patience, the support of a team – it’s not just one person putting the aircraft Bell’s project lead for the NASA SIO programme tells Peter Donaldson why she got into aerospace engineering When a career April/May 2020 | Unmanned Systems Technology