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William E. Boeing Distinguished Lecture 2004

Dr. Paul MacCready

Paul B. MacCready, Chairman AeroVironment Inc., delivered the sixth William E. Boeing Distinguished Lecture entitled Powering Devices with Minimum Renewable Energy.

The lecture, sponsored by the School of Aeronautics & Astronautics was held in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall on November 11, 2004 where MacCready shared his thoughts on how power generated by combustion engines, fuel cells, battery power, and hybrid combinations can be minimized by paying attention to fundamentals.

Dr. Paul MacCready, with an academic background in physics and aeronautics, has become meteorologist, inventor, world champion glider pilot, and explorer of new horizons in conserving energy and the environment and in teaching thinking skills. He received a B.S. in physics from Yale in 1947, an M.S. in physics from Caltech in 1948, and a Ph.D. in aeronautics from Caltech in 1952.

In 1977, his Gossamer Condor won the $95,000 award offered by British industrialist Henry Kremer for the first sustained, controlled human-powered flight. Two years later, its successor, the Gossamer Albatross, won aviation's largest prize, the $213,000 Kremer Award for a human-powered flight from England to France. Subsequently, he has led teams at AeroVironment Inc. that have created many additional pioneering vehicles.

In 1981, his DuPont-sponsored Solar Challenger carried a pilot 163 miles from Paris to England at 11,000 feet, powered solely by sunbeams. Another of his human-powered airplanes, the Bionic Bat, won two new Kremer speed prizes in 1984. Under the sponsorship of the National Air and Space Museum and Johnson Wax, his team developed a radio-controlled, wing-flapping, flying replica of a giant pterodactyl—a creature from 70 million years ago with a 36-foot wing span. The replica is the key "actor" in a wide screen IMAX film, On the Wing, which connects biological flight to aircraft.

In 1987, his group, working in conjunction with General Motors, built the GM Sunraycer, which won the solar car race across Australia (50 percent faster than the second-place vehicle). Next, the same team developed the GM-Impact, a battery-powered car. GM turned this into a commercial version called EV-1. In 2001, the solar-powered Helios, a huge, remotely-piloted descendant of the Solar Challenger, reached the stratospheric altitude of 96,863' (the highest an airplane has ever maintained level flight—by two miles).

AeroVironment's small battery-powered vehicles, such as the 9 lb. Pointer, are now being sold to the military in sizeable quantities for their ability to probe for hours with video and IR. His groups have also developed many commercial products for ground use as well as air, such as devices for using electricity to propel ground equipment at airports and factories, and to provide backup power for operational systems.

The Gossamer Condor now hangs in the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It is one of five vehicles developed by MacCready's teams that have been acquired by the Smithsonian. His activities have been featured internationally in museum exhibits, TV documentaries, books and magazines. He lectures widely for industry and educational institutions, emphasizing creativity.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and has Fellow status in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Meteorological Society. He has been awarded numerous honorary degrees, and some thirty national and international honors including:

1979 Collier Trophy, awarded annually by the National Aeronautics Association for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics.
1980 Ingenieur of the Century Gold Medal, ASME.
1982 Lindbergh Award, for his "significant contributions toward creating a better balance between technology and the environment."
1987 Guggenheim Medal awarded by the three professional societies AIAA, SAE, and ASME.
1991 SAE Edward N. Cole Award for automotive engineering innovation.

Dr. MacCready lives in Pasadena, California, with his wife Judy. He founded AeroVironment Inc., now a rapidly growing company with a specialty in power electronic systems, providing services and products in the areas of environment, alternative energy, and efficient vehicles for land, sea, and air. He is on the Board of Directors of the Lindbergh Foundation and the Society for Amateur Scientists.