University of Michigan students to work on $334M air-breathing hypersonic drone project

Leidos is partnering with the University of Michigan on its Mayhem program. (AFRL/Leidos rendering) (Hand-out, AFRL/Leidos rendering)

ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan students in the school’s Aerospace Engineering program will soon be getting real-time experience on a multimillion dollar national defense project.

Technology company Leidos has announced it has added U-M as a partner on the $334 million Mayhem program awarded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

The project will work on developing an air-breathing hypersonic weapons system. The U-M students will contribute to the program by gaining experience via the school’s Model-Based Systems Engineering lab.

“The University of Michigan will be a critical component to the Mayhem strategy,” operations manager for the Leidos Innovation Center Artie Mabbett said in a statement. “The students will gain firsthand experience experimenting with DE/MBSE tools aiding in development of the virtual ecosystem that will ultimately be transitioned to a Leidos environment for implementation on the Mayhem program.

“Not only does this benefit the program directly, but it also creates a pipeline of incredible talent with real world experience for the defense industrial complex.”

The students will support the project by assembling elements of the MBSE environment. Leidos will then deploy their work in the digital engineering ecosystem for the Mayhem team to utilize.

“Our team can have a significant impact in establishing a standard for Models-Based Systems Engineering that will help Leidos unlock massive efficiencies, cost and time savings,” aerospace engineering professor at U-M and program director fot the MBSE lab, George Halow said in a statement. “It is our goal to help industry make this happen by giving aerospace students and our partners the tools they need to be successful.”

“It’s going to be challenging, for sure, because we’ll have to develop the techniques in addition to a full aerospace course load,” one of the aerospace students, who was handpicked by Halow, said in a statement. “But it’s definitely going to be very rewarding to work on something that’s at the cutting edge of aerospace technology.”

More students will be selected to join the project over the coming semesters.

According to a Leidos release, there is a growing need for expertise in system projects and systems engineering in the aerospace industry.

“This is a formative opportunity for us,” another aerospace student said in a statement. “Not only is it a massive project, but we’re really starting from square one. I feel like I’m being handed very meaningful work.”

The MBSE Leadership Lab is sponsored by Leidos. The company provides industry feedback to students through the relationship across topics like drones and space control projects to adaptive aircraft wheelchair accommodation designs.

“Leidos has been leading the way in our MBSE and systems engineering leadership program at Michigan Aerospace,” Halow said in a release. “They show the critical industry need and are active participants in developing the next generation of leaders in this space. This is the future of our field, and we’re grateful for partners like Leidos who see the way forward.”

“The team assembled by Leidos marries exceptional experience with innovation,” Mayhem program manager for Leidos Ryan Leo said in a statement. “Nothing highlights that better than our partnership with Michigan and its aerospace engineering students. My team is looking forward to seeing what they develop for this program.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.