2017 Innovator of the Year Honored

R&D Magazine’s 2017 Innovator of the Year is Warren Hoburg, PhD, who is featured on the December 2017 issue available on www.RDmag.com. He was honored at the R&D 100 Awards Gala on Nov. 2017.   

Science Editorial Director Bea Riemschneider made the following remarks and invited Dr. Hoburg  to the stage to accept the award and show a video of his innovation. 

R&D Magazine’s 2017 Innovator of the Year is Warren “Woody” Hoburg, who has revolutionized telecommunications and has demonstrated how an innovation can be used in the aftermath of natural disasters—and we have all heard about a few of those lately in the news.

With a team of engineers at MIT, Dr. Hoburg designed, built and tested an unpiloted aerial vehicle that can hover over an area for long durations to provide wide-ranging communications support. The project was supported by the Air Force—and the drone that was built flew in May of this year. It was nicknamed the Jungle Hawk Owl (JHO). 

This UAV resembles a thin glider with a 24-foot wingspan, and can carry 10 to 20 pounds of communications equipment while flying at an altitude of 15,000 feet. The vehicle is powered by a 5-horsepower gasoline engine and can keep itself aloft for more than five days.

Dr. Hoburg himself designed the software toolkit that allowed the engineers to consider 200 constraints and physical models simultaneously—and fit them all together to create the optimal aircraft design. 

In addition to disaster relief, these drones can be used for other missions such as environmental monitoring. We are honoring Dr. Hoburg here tonight for this innovative groundbreaking work at MIT.

But there is more to his story! Now, we have an amazing twist to his career.

In June 2017, Dr. Hoburg beat the odds as a tenure-track academic—when he was selected to be in NASA’s 12-member 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. 

Imagine an R&D professional as a NASA astronaut! Pretty amazing for this very accomplished R&D leader! We shouldn’t be too surprised though. Woody is a private pilot and has extensive wilderness search and rescue experience, so his heart seems to lie in helping others—and breaking new ground.

Please welcome him now to the stage to talk about his MIT work—and to accept the 2017 Innovator of the Year award along with our congratulations!