Aurora Home


  • 1989

    Aurora Flight Sciences founded in Alexandria, Virginia

    Aurora Flight Sciences was founded by John S. Langford in 1989. An MIT graduate and manager of MIT’s Daedalus project for NASA, Langford started Aurora with the goal of designing and manufacturing high-altitude, long-endurance autonomous aircraft.


  • 1991

    Aurora moves to Manassas Regional Airport

    In 1991, Aurora moved its headquarters from Alexandria, VA to Manassas Regional Airport in Manassas, VA. Now a multi-building campus, Aurora uses this facility for development programs, rapid proto-typing, flight testing, and for corporate operations.

  • Perseus Proof-of-Concept (POC)

    Aurora’s first aircraft, the Perseus POC, took flight in November 1991. The remotely piloted, propeller-powered aircraft was developed specifically to support atmospheric research. The aircraft was designed to validate both the aircraft’s aerodynamic model and flight control systems.

  • 1993

    Perseus A

    In December 1993, the second iteration of the Perseus vehicle completed its first flight. To overcome the scarcity of oxygen in the stratosphere, the Perseus A remotely piloted aircraft used an innovative closed-cycle engine that ingested its own exhaust, cooled it, enriched it with vaporized liquid oxygen, then fed it into a combustion chamber to ignite aviation gasoline.

  • 1994

    Aurora opens in West Virginia

    In 1994, Aurora opened a 68,000 sq ft composites facility in Fairmont, WV. The first aircraft built at this facility was a prototype of Theseus, a twin-engine stratospheric drone.

  • Perseus B

    Perseus B, a slightly lower-flying derivative of Perseus A, took its first flight on October 7, 1994. The aircraft was funded by NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program. In 1998, after being modified with a longer wing, Perseus B achieved a record altitude for a single-engine, propeller-driven aircraft, reaching 60,260 feet – almost 12 miles above the surface of the Earth.

  • 1995

    Global Hawk RQ-4A

    Aurora first delivered v-tail assemblies for Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk program in 1995. The program has since grown to also include the aft fuselage and nacelle for the Global Hawk and Triton aircraft.

    Image credit: Northrop Grumman

  • 1996

    Chiron Optionally Piloted Aircraft System

    Chiron was the company’s first optionally piloted aircraft (OPA). The aircraft’s flight control software provided a measure of autonomy, giving the onboard computers control of the autopilot system, navigation and propulsion, and the data link used to send and receive information to and from a ground control station.

  • Theseus Prototype

    Aurora’s twin-engine Theseus robotic aircraft flew for the first time on May 24, 1996. The aircraft was a larger, more powerful derivative of Perseus B designed to carry a heavy payload of scientific equipment into the upper stratosphere for NASA. Theseus was the first Aurora aircraft with a fully composite fuselage.

  • 1999

    Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) Subscale Demonstrator

    Aurora built and flew a subscale demonstrator of Raytheon Corp.’s entry in DARPA’s Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle competition. The UCAV was a stealthy, twin-jet, thrust-vectored, tailless delta wing. The aircraft’s first flight in 1999 marked the company’s first UAV flight out of Manassas.

  • Jason sUAS

    Jason, Aurora’s first Mars aircraft, was a high aspect-ratio airplane with a mid-fuselage propeller to support the aircraft’s ability to fold into a entry vehicle. The full-scale prototype, weighing in at only 13 pounds, first flew in 1999 and successfully demonstrated the ability to separate from an aeroshell, unfold itself, and attain controlled flight.

  • Mars Airplane Project (MAP)

    Aurora designed an entry for NASA’s Mars Airplane Project, which sought to create a vehicle capable of sustaining powered flight in the atmosphere of Mars. The Mars Flyer demonstrator was first flown in an airplane field in San Jose, California in 1999.


  • 2000

    Aurora moves West Virginia manufacturing facility

    On Feb. 1, 2000, Aurora moved their West Virginia operations to the Mid Atlantic Aerospace Complex in Bridgeport. Aurora now occupies 6 buildings in Bridgeport, and, in 2024, completed construction on a 48,000 sq ft building expansion.

  • 2002

    Mars High Altitude Deployment Demonstrator (HADD)

    Aurora’s HADD, aka Mars Flyer, was built for NASA Langley’s entry in the Mars Scout program. In September 2002, HADD performed a flawless, fully autonomous flight after being dropped from a hot air balloon at an altitude of over 100,000 ft over Tillamook, OR.

  • 2003

    GoldenEye 100 (GE-100)

    Developed under a contract for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Aurora’s Goldeneye vehicles were autonomous, ducted-fan UAVs with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities. First taking flight in 2003, the GE-100 prototype was Aurora’s first VTOL aircraft.

  • 2004

    GoldenEye 50 (GE-50)

    The GE-50 was a smaller version of the GE-100 designed to investigate patented free-wing technology and autonomous flight. GE-50 first flew in 2004 in a demonstration for the U.S. Army. In 2007, the FAA granted Aurora three experimental airworthiness certificates allowing GE-50 to fly in the National Airspace System.

  • High Altitude Deployment Demonstrator (HADD-II)

    In 2004, Aurora built a full-scale HADD-II Mars Flyer for NASA as a part of the Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey (ARES) program. The goal of the program was to create a robotic, rocket-powered airplane that would fly one mile above the surface of Mars to investigate the planet’s atmosphere, surface, and sub-surface.

  • 2005

    Aurora opens manufacturing facility in Mississippi

    On April 29, 2005, Aurora opened a new manufacturing facility at Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory in Starkville, MS. The facility included a 55,000 sq ft prototyping facility, a 35,000 sq ft test laboratory, and a range of equipment for making composite parts, including a 10’ x 55’ autoclave.

  • GoldenEye 80 (GE-80)

    Aurora’s GE-80 was chosen in Phase 1 of the Organic Air Vehicle-II program, a joint effort between DARPA and the U.S. Army to select a vertical takeoff and landing UAV for the Army’s Future Combat Systems program. First flown in 2005, GE-80 was the first ducted fan UAV to fly with a heavy fuel engine.

  • 2006

    Aurora opens R&D office in Massachusetts

    In 2006, Aurora opened a research and development facility in Cambridge, MA to develop and integrate advanced technologies into the company’s unmanned aerial vehicles and add diversity the company’s technology portfolio.

  • Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES)

    This system of three basketball-sized, battery-powered, autonomous miniature satellites called SPHERES was first used aboard the International Space Station in 2006. SPHERES provided a test platform for metrology, controls, and autonomous technologies. They flew safely within the ISS using cold gas propulsion and onboard navigation systems.

    Image credit: NASA

  • 2007

    Mississippi manufacturing moves to Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTR)

    In May of 2007, Aurora opened a purpose-built 22,000 square feet manufacturing facility at GTR in Columbus, MS. Today, the site has expanded to more than 114,000 sq ft and houses manufacturing technologies such as automated fiber placement.

  • MH-60 Sonobuoy Launcher

    Aurora first delivered sonobuoy launchers and associated fairings for Sikorsky’s MH-60 helicopter in September 2007. The launchers include both metal and composite details along with significant pneumatic valves, seals, and mechanical hardware.


  • 2008

    Odysseus Vulture program

    In 2008, Aurora began flight testing its subscale demonstrator for DARPA’s Very-high altitude, Ultra-endurance, Loitering Theater Unmanned Reconnaissance Element (VULTURE) program. The program goal was to develop a solar-powered aircraft that could fly in the stratosphere for up to five years. Aurora’s “Z-wing” configuration included an articulating airframe that ensured the solar cells were always at the best angle to collect the sun’s energy.

  • 2009

    Sunlight Eagle Solar Powered UAS

    The SunLight Eagle unmanned demonstrator aircraft completed the first solar-powered UAS flight in the national airspace in 2009. SunLight Eagle’s two test flights took place at Las Cruces International Airport in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Center operated by the Physical Science Laboratory of New Mexico State University.

  • Excalibur

    First flown in June 2009, Excalibur was a hybrid-electric Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) designed to take off and land vertically using three ducted lift fans and transform itself into a fixed-wing, jet engine aircraft. In forward flight, the louvered fans would retract into the wing, and Excalibur would roll over and fly upside-down in order to be harder to detect.


  • 2010

    Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft System

    Aurora’s Centaur optionally piloted aircraft (OPA) is a modified Diamond DA42 that can be operated from a remote ground control station, with or without an onboard pilot. Centaur first began flight testing in 2010 and flew multiple unmanned flights from Griffiss International Airport in New York in June 2015. Today, the aircraft conducts unmanned, 16-hr flights.

  • Skate Small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS)

    The Skate sUAS debuted at the Farnborough International Airshow in July 2010. Skate used electric propulsion with an innovative airframe that could be carried in a standard military backpack and was deployed in 2013 in Afghanistan. Skate could be launched vertically and was able to hover and transition to high speed forward flight.

  • 2011


    Aurora first delivered the main rotor pylon for Sikorsky’s CH-53K helicopter in 2011, followed by engine nacelles beginning in 2012. Both programs continue today in Aurora’s West Virginia facility.

    Image credit: U.S. Navy

  • 2012

    Phantom Eye UAV

    Aurora designed and built a 150-foot-span wing for a Boeing’s hydrogen-powered high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) demonstrator. The Phantom Eye completed its first flight on June 1, 2012 at Edwards Air Force Base.

  • 2013

    S-97 RAIDER Fuselage

    In September 2013, Aurora delivered the fuselage structure, consisting of an integrated cockpit, cabin and tail cone, for Sikorsky’s prototype S-97 RAIDER™ helicopter. Today, Aurora manufactures the upper clam shell/slider door and lower door for the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter.

  • Orion Medium-Altitude Long-endurance (MALE) UAS

    Aurora’s twin-engine, turbo-diesel-powered Orion MALE first flew in 2013. In December 2014, Orion performed an 80-hour flight, setting a world record for the longest flight duration for a remotely controlled UAV. The aircraft flew with 1,000 lb. of ballast and, upon landing, had 1,700 lb. of fuel remaining, enough to fly for an additional 37 hours.

  • Aurora Swiss Aerospace opens

    In 2013, Aurora opened a subsidiary in Luzern, Switzerland. This site was originally established as a support office, but quickly became an engineering hub specializing in lightweight structures and unmanned aircraft systems.

  • 2014

    Gulfstream G500 Aerosystems

    Aurora manufactures the horizontal tail for Gulfstream’s G500. Production began in 2014 and includes composite manufacturing, automated fiber placement, computer numerical control (CNC) machining, dimensional inspections, and surface coating.

    Image credit: Gulfstream Aerospace

  • Autonomous Aerial Utility System (AACUS)

    AACUS transforms a manned helicopter into an autonomous aircraft with the ability to deliver cargo safely, efficiently, and rapidly. A US Office of Naval Research flight demonstration was completed in February 2014 using a Boeing H-6U Little Bird helicopter. In 2018, AACUS, on a UH-1 helicopter, successfully delivered cargo to US Marines in the Integrated Training Exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.

  • 2016

    Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Autonomous System (ALIAS)

    Developed under a DARPA contract, ALIAS is a drop-in robotic copilot kit designed to ease the pilot-in-command’s workload and enhance flight safety. It was integrated and tested on several aircraft, including, in 2016, a Cessna Caravan.

  • XV-24A LightningStrike VTOL Demonstrator

    Aurora’s XV-24A LightningStrike was a hybrid-electric, distributed propulsion, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) demonstrator design that won DARPA’s VTOL X-Plane competition. The subscale vehicle demonstrator successfully flew at a U.S. military facility in March 2016.

  • 2017

    SideArm Launch and Recovery System

    SideArm, designed to be deployed on ships and ground combat vehicles, consists of a crane arm with a launch rail that catapults a compatible UAV to flight speed and recovers the aircraft by capturing it with a hook mounted on the upper aft fuselage of the UAV. A full-scale system lab test was conducted in 2017.

  • Boeing acquires Aurora Flight Sciences

    On November 8, 2017, Aurora was acquired by The Boeing Company, becoming a fully owned subsidiary operating under Boeing’s Engineering, Test & Technology division.

  • 2018

    Odysseus High-Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS)

    On November 14, 2018, Aurora unveiled its Odysseus high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS). With a wingspan of 234 ft., the autonomous aircraft has the ability to stay at an altitude of 65,000 ft. for several months at a time.

  • 2019

    Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV)

    First flown in January 2019, Aurora’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) PAV accelerated innovation and advanced the development of urban air mobility. PAV is designed for fully autonomous flight from takeoff to landing, which includes dynamic route planning and the ability to detect and avoid unexpected obstacles.


  • 2020

    Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program AlphaDogfight Trials

    DARPA’s ACE program was designed to increase trust in combat autonomy by using human-machine collaborative dogfighting as its challenge problem. Aurora and teams from a wide range of other organizations competed in three trials, called AlphaDogfight Trials, between October 2019 and August 2020.

    Image credit: DARPA

  • Red Team Unmanned Aerial Targets

    Red Team targets are reconfigurable, Group-1 Counter-UAS training assets. Both fixed-wing and multi-rotor configurations offer a low-cost solution for counter-UAS testing and training missions.

  • Artificial Intelligence Exploration (AIE) program

    Starting with the Intelligent Auto-Generation and Composition of Surrogate Models program, also known as Gamebreaker, Aurora works on key programs to support DARPA’s broader artificial intelligence (AI) investment strategy. Aurora won four additional DARPA AIE programs: Techniques for Machine Vision Disruption (TMVD, 2021), Intelligent Auto-Generation and Composition of Surrogate Models project (Ditto, 2021), Shared-Experience Lifelong Learning (ShELL, 2021), and Enabling Confidence (2022).

  • 2021

    Modular Intercept Drone Avionics Set (MIDAS)

    MIDAS is Aurora’s AI-enabled, multi-rotor sUAV outfitted with optical sensors and a customized payload that can defeat multiple small UAVs per flight with low-collateral effects. In 2021, MIDAS participated in the Pentagon’s first counter drone technology demonstration in Yuma, AZ.

  • 2022

    Skiron Expeditionary (SKIRON-X) sUAS

    Aurora’s SKIRON-X is a Group 2 unmanned aircraft system that combines the simple operation of an electric vertical take-off and landing configuration with the longer range and endurance of a fixed-wing design. SKIRON-X was first sold in 2022 to a customer who will deploy the vehicle for fire-fighting.

  • Flexible Robotic Composite Manufacturing Cell (FRCMC)

    FRCMC is an advanced machining and inspection technology developed under a Navy ManTech program supported by the Office of Naval Research and NAVAIR’s PMA-261. FRCMC includes 8-axis robotic part machining, automated part transportation, 7-axis robotic part dimensional inspection, and process control software. Production parts were first made using FRCMC in January 2022.

  • MQ-25 Aerosystems and Autonomy

    In 2022, Aurora delivered the first composite skins for MQ-25 and also demonstrated an autonomy platform to support Boeing’s manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) capability on the MQ-25 aircraft.

    Image credit: Boeing

  • Wisk Airtaxi program

    Aurora supports Wisk to design, certify, and bring a self-flying electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft to market. Wisk unveiled their 6th generation airtaxi in October 2022.

    Image credit: Wisk

  • Aurora opens new offices in Massachusetts

    In 2022, Aurora moved into two new facilities in Massachusetts: an autonomy lab in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston and the Boeing Aerospace and Autonomy Center in Cambridge. These new facilities house offices, workspaces, and technology labs where Aurora works on cutting-edge research programs in autonomy.


  • Future

    Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors (CRANE) X-65

    Aurora is designing and building a new X-plane for DARPA’s CRANE program. The X-plane, designated X-65, uses active flow control for multiple effects, including flight control at tactical speeds and performance enhancement across the flight envelope. Flight testing is targeted for summer 2025.

  • Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD) Program

    Aurora is providing GE Aviation, the EPFD program lead, with airplane modification, system integration, and flight-testing services for the NASA flight demonstrator, a Saab 340B turboprop aircraft modified with a hybrid-electric propulsion system.

    Image Credit: GE Aerospace

  • Sustainable Flight Demonstrator (SFD)

    NASA’s SFD project aims to design, build, and flight test a full-scale single-aisle X-plane, designated X-66, equipped with a transonic truss-braced wing (TTBW) to reduce carbon emissions and improve efficiency. Aurora is a part of the Boeing team selected for the project and will play a pivotal role, focusing on the design, build, integration, and delivery of the TTBW system.

    Image credit: Boeing

  • Liberty Lifter

    Aurora has been selected for phase 1 of DARPA’s Liberty Lifter program, which aims to design, build, float, and fly an affordable, innovative, and disruptive seaplane that demonstrates revolutionary heavy-air-lift capability from the sea. This includes the ability to operate efficiently in ground effect (< 100 feet above surface), sustain flight altitudes up to 10,000 ft. mean sea level, and enable efficient theater-range transport of large payloads at speeds far exceeding existing sea lift platforms.

  • SPeed and Runway INdependent Technologies (SPRINT) X-Plane

    Aurora has been selected for phase 1 of the DARPA SPRINT project, which aims to design, build, and fly an X-Plane to demonstrate technologies and integrated concepts necessary for a transformational combination of aircraft speed and runway independence.