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18 W hen meeting people from the world of unmanned systems, it is not unusual to find some whose childhoods were blessed with scientific inspiration, which drew them towards a lifelong specialisation in a coveted discipline. Ray Leto is a case in point, his career in aerodynamics having been sparked at an early age to lead him into motorsport and aerospace engineering. Now, as CEO of TotalSim US, he leads a team that provides critical testing, simulation and optimisation work to a wide range of unmanned vehicle engineering projects. “One of my uncles served as navigator on a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in WWII, and flew 35 missions out of Knettinshall, Suffolk, with the 388th Bombardment Group (Heavy),” he recounts. “Another uncle used to take me to a small airport near our home in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, where there were a lot of old WWII aeroplanes as well as homebuilt aircraft.” These, along with a cousin passionate about Solo 2-type Autocross racing, a great fondness among his family for hands-on car maintenance, and some teachers who had served as pilots in WWII, fostered a fascination for all things related to vehicle engineering. From aerospace to racing Leto’s father and two of his uncles had previously studied at Pennsylvania State University, which combined with its proximity to Kennett Square made it ideal for his degree programme in Aerospace Engineering. He enrolled in 1981 and graduated in 1985, following instruction from well-known and prolific aviation textbook authors such as Dr Barnes McCormick, Hubert Smith and Dr Mark Maughmer. He had wanted to go from academia into a fully-fledged flying career, but saw that the US general aviation industry was lacking opportunities at the time. In fact, the nearest (and best) aerospace factory had shut down during his university education. “But I got involved with the SCCA [Sports Car Club of America], helping a lot of local guys who were doing road racing with Formula Vees and Formula Fords, as well as a local car dealership that ran in GT1 for Nissan at the time. So I wound up spending a lot of time going The CEO of TotalSim US recounts the key stages in his career and gives an insight into what the company offers. By Rory Jackson Model role April/May 2022 | Unmanned Systems Technology A career across aviation and motorsport has informed Ray Leto’s leadership of TotalSim as his team takes on projects throughout the unmanned world (Images courtesy of TotalSim)