Firefly team members (from left) Sasha Galitsky, Tony Tao, Michael Trinh (holding Firefly mockup with prototype with wing and tail controls), Madeleine Jansson, Juju Wang (with stabilization shuttlecock deployed), Charlie Garcia (with thermal liner vacuum-processing rig), Zach Bierstedt (holding force balance to measure forces generated by development motor), and Matt Vernacchia. (Beaver Works photograph)
The 550 mph Firefly by Tony Tao MIT Beaver Works is a collaboration between MIT and Lincoln Laboratory that gives students the opportunity to design, build, test, and deliver actual flight vehicles for external customers, notably the US Air Force and US Navy. This has proven a unique opportunity for the students to integrate their academic experience with real world engineering experience. Between 2010 and 2012, the Beaver Works students were commissioned to develop a small expendable UAV to be deployed from a full-scale aircraft at 30,000 feet and autonomously fly a one-hour environmental monitoring mission. The preferred launch platform was a flare dispenser, which required the vehicle to fit into a 2-inch by 2.5-inch by 7-inch cartridge. The end result was a tiny folding aircraft christened â€œLocust.â€?