Draper engineers and scientists advance the capabilities not only of Draper’s customers but of technology fields and industries. In addition to working on customer programs, Draper technical staff have the exciting opportunity to propose new technological ideas for funding through Draper’s internal research and development program (IRAD)—and if funded to lead their development. This program helps keep Draper and its staff at the forefront of technology and fosters a culture of innovation. Staff grow their skills through new challenges, which helps their careers develop. Below are a few examples.
Even where GPS is not easily available, vehicles of all types need accurate, robust positioning and navigation. To operate in such environments, Draper is developing a range of advanced navigation technologies that use a variety of sensing methodologies in addition to GPS: inertial, celestial, LIDAR, magnetic, vision-aided navigation, and signals of opportunity. Draper integrates various modalities using unique algorithms, including Artificial Intelligence methods, to provide a “best at all times” solution onto a common platform for use in land, sea and space applications.
Complex 3D environments, such as urban megacities, are difficult places to fly drones. Draper’s XR Drone Control will enable users to precisely control multiple drones remotely with virtual reality (VR). Drones running Draper autonomy software scan their environment and stream depth data to a computer, which converts it to a live 3D point cloud for a VR user. The VR user then can give instructions to the drone via motion controllers, eye tracking or hand tracking inputs. Such 3D spatial visualizations help users better understand the drone’s environment, and natural interfaces enable VR users to more precisely control drones.
Draper is a leader in the practical application of modeling and simulation to prototype solutions in the digital domain prior to their development in the physical domain (e.g., digital twin). We continue to advance the state of the art in integrated digital environments, trade space exploration, multi-physics modeling and optimization, and data visualization. Applications include hypersonic vehicles, space and re-entry vehicles, biological diagnostic design and spectrum effects. Abstract modeling skills, software development best practices, and statistics and machine learning all come together to create useful quick-turn simulation models for Draper’s current and future needs.
For work with government biosecurity and pharmaceutical partners, as well as internal research, Draper uses its advanced high throughput human tissue-based organ on chip platform, PREDICT96, and a Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) high containment capability, toward disease modeling and therapeutic discovery for COVID-19 and other pandemic diseases. Achievements include demonstration and characterization of SARS-CoV-2 infection in human lung tissue, and screening SARS-CoV-2 antiviral drugs to predict clinical outcomes. This capability will enable development of targeted COVID therapies against viral variants. Draper is working with multiple partners toward application against a range of infectious diseases and other biothreats.