At Aurora, fostering a culture of innovation and creativity is a priority. One way we support employees’ ambitions to think outside of the box is through an internal program that allows employees to pitch ideas and then potentially receive a short-term budget to further develop that idea. The program applies internal research and development funds to support innovative ideas that would not have otherwise been supported by an existing customer program or development project.

“This program is a great way for us to develop the tools we need to explore the feasibility space and set ourselves up for future success,” said engineer Lauren Wolfe, who participated in the program last year. “It allows us to investigate new technologies that could benefit our programs and prototypes. Is there a way to make things better; to stay competitive with others in the industry; to differentiate our products and make them safer, lighter, faster, or longer endurance? Many of us have ideas that could lead to something better but need the time and funding to prove what could work and what is worth additional investment. This program provides that opportunity.”

The program began in 2020, and projects have ranged from new ideas to support more sustainable manufacturing to designing, building, and testing prototype aircraft. Participation is open to all Aurora employees. Once an employee has an idea they want to pitch, they work with their manager to explore the idea and develop a presentation identifying the technical concept, objectives, estimated cost, and expected result. Employees then have seven minutes to make their pitch to a panel of Aurora executives. Projects are selected for funding based on several factors including feasibility and relevancy.

In February 2022, mechanical engineer Laura Yenchesky submitted a proposal to integrate Aurora’s autonomy core software, primarily used in lab-based simulations, into a flight-ready small unmanned aerial system (sUAS). By November, the team successfully demonstrated the software in flight test on Aurora’s Red Team Multi-Rotor sUAS.

“The goal of my project was to demonstrate the use of Aurora’s existing autonomy core software on a small UAS. This enables low-cost, low-risk autonomy prototyping and maturation,” said Laura. “We put together a team of Aurora employees to integrate a low-cost mission computer onto a purpose-built multi-copter, and at the end of the project, we completed three successful test flights.”

While the objective of the program is to encourage the generation of new, innovative ideas, employees are simultaneously given the opportunity to take on additional responsibility and learn more about processes outside of their role.

“This program has given me the opportunity to learn how to fill larger program roles outside of my day-to-day responsibilities,” said Laura. “I was the program manager and chief engineer for this project, and I was responsible for handling the finances, planning, and technical scope. It gave me the opportunity to learn how to manage a team outside of my specific discipline which is beneficial for growth in my role and in the company.”

Interested in joining the Aurora team? Visit our careers site today:


Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company, advances the future of flight by developing and applying innovations across aircraft configurations, autonomous systems, propulsion technologies, and manufacturing processes. With a passionate and agile team, Aurora delivers solutions to its customers’ toughest challenges while meeting high standards of safety and quality. Learn more at

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Carmen Smith, Aurora Flight Sciences