The year was 1971 when the late Dr. Paul B. MacCready, Jr., an innovator in technology with a strong affinity for design, looked to the skies and dreamt of pushing the boundaries of aircraft systems. What he conceived out of this passion of his is a company called AeroVironment, an entity best known for its development of lightweight human-powered and solar-powered vehicles. 50 years later, AeroVironment has become the Pentagon’s top supplier of drones and established itself as a leader in its respective realm of technology.
AeroVironment didn’t accomplish accolades such as helping to design the Mars Ingenuity helicopter by luck or chance. They did it by recruiting some of the most talented, curious, and innovative minds in the world of technology and engineering. How did they attract some of the top minds in the industry you might ask? By giving employees the chance to work on some of the world’s most groundbreaking projects with the potential to shift the foundation of science and technology as we know it today. Specifically, in their internship programs for students and recent graduates.
In order to offer you a better understanding of the incredible internship opportunities that AeroVironment is currently looking to fill, WayUp spoke with three former interns about the fascinating projects they worked on and what you can expect if you were to do the same.
Writing Code for Cutting-Edge Military Tech
Brij Shah first laid eyes upon AeroVironment’s stunning building when he was on his way to Senior Prom. With little knowledge about the company besides the fact that they created tech solutions in the aviation and defense sectors, his curiosity was ignited. Shortly after, Brij went off to college at UC Riverside where his interest in computer science and engineering began to quickly flourish alongside his desire to work for AeroVironment.
A few years later, Brij found himself totally enraptured by computer science and engineering, even landing a job at AeroVironment in the summers of 2020 and 2021 as a software engineering intern. During his most recent internship in 2021, Brij got the chance to work on two variations of a tactical missile system – the Switchblade® 300 and 600 – that allow precision strike capabilities at the battlefield edge.
For Brij, one of the most gratifying aspects of the project was being able to write code and test case applications that would have a significant influence and added value to the final end-product – a product with incredible benefits for the military and our defense system.
In addition to further developing his coding skills and intensifying his already fervent passion for computer science, Brij is also happy to have gained some soft skills such as learning how to better communicate via text – a trait that is becoming more and more important in this virtual world – making his time as an AeroVironment intern a 10/10 experience.
Developing the Architecture of Top-Secret & Highly-Classified Solutions
While Brij Shah focused on developing test case applications, Cameron Strafford, a systems architecture and requirements management intern, devoted his time to building concepts of operation and writing requirements that Brij and his team would later run their test cases on.
As a systems architecture and requirements management intern, Cameron got the rare opportunity to work across various sectors of the design and development process as his position required him to assure compliance and fluidity between different team members.
Cameron went on to say that the experience he got working with other departments offered him incredibly valuable insight and knowledge that would help him if he were to move into a different position. Additionally, he can use that information he gained as a systems engineer when working with someone in the same position in future projects!
Besides being able to dive even deeper into the world of aerial technology, something Cameron has been passionate about as a kid since his fixation with RC planes, he thought it was really exciting to be working on highly-classified, top-secret projects that he wasn’t even allowed to talk about with us, not to mention his friends or even his family.
Designing & Exploring Aerospace Technology from Conception to Completion
Ever since she was young, Savanna Scott had a strong interest in robotics and flight technology. With a father as a pilot and a curious nature about the skies above us and how we might navigate them, you could say Savanna found the perfect home when she started working as an aerospace engineer at AeroVironment.
Recently, Savanna completed her fourth consecutive summer as an aerospace engineering intern, giving her plenty to talk about regarding the incredible experiences that await as an AeroVironment employee. What’s unique about Savanna’s experience at AeroVironment is that she has actually been working on the same project for the past four years, helping build a high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS) named Sunglider.
Some of the use cases of the Sunglider include providing wireless communications and connectivity to places that don’t have it and a variety of military applications, depending on who is sponsoring the vessel. Essentially acting as a satellite, the Sunglider is designed to fly in the stratosphere for months at a time.
For Savanna, it really resonated with her that the aircraft she was working on was solar-powered. As someone with a passion for the conservation of our environment, it was rewarding to know her work was going towards something she cared about.
As an active member on the project for four years, from the conception up to now, Savanna also spoke with great enthusiasm about the joy it brought her to contribute and see a project being built from start to finish. In the summer of 2020, she even got the chance to go to New Mexico where she lived on-site with a group of her colleagues to test the actual solution they were working on. Besides the actual hands-on aspect of the experience, Savanna underscored how much closer she grew to her colleagues and the impact they had on her.
One thing that Savanna really appreciated about her time spent at AeroVironment was the team-oriented environment that fostered her ability to be far less hesitant about reaching out for help when she needed it. She knew that her team members had her back and that she had theirs, which only better enabled them to pursue these ventures in technology that continue to shape the industry of aerospace flight as we know it.
What Will You Do?
Whether you want to be like Brij – coding software for some of the most cutting-edge unmanned aircraft systems, or Cameron – orchestrating the composition of highly-classified military solutions, or Savanna – putting together from start to finish solar-powered aircraft solutions with the potential to reshape civilizations, AeroVironment has a place for you.
The only thing that is left to do is identify what drives you and how you can use your skills and creative ingenuity to make technological innovations come to life, all of which can be made possible in an internship at AeroVironment.