A member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab's Robot Locomotion Group, Cory received the award for his work on developing a perching airplane alongside Associate Professor Russ Tedrake. Together, they developed a glider with the ability to land on a wire like a bird.
Before beginning work on the perching-glider project in 2005, neither Tedrake nor Cory had a background in aeronautics. "We were trying to think of a project that could push the limits of robot control, and the idea came up of trying to build a robot that could fly like a bird," Cory recalls. "For me that was a very inspiring, fantastic idea. From that point on it was literally a matter of picking up Aerodynamics 101 books and learning as much as I could."
Tedrake and Cory drew inspiration from nature, studying the patterns and trajectories of avian flight. They found a compelling challenge in building a vehicle that, like a bird, could take advantage of available drag in order to land on a fixed target. The current iteration is a foam glider with a single motor and minimalistic control system. The design could have far-reaching applications in the development of small, highly maneuverable unmanned air vehicles.
For Cory, who will leave MIT next month to build next-generation robots for Walt Disney Imagineering, receiving the Boeing award is highly validating. "It's certainly humbling to get recognition from one of the most recognized names in aviation," Cory says. "[Russ and I] are both computer scientists, and I would be lying if I said there weren't points when we wondered if anyone was going to think that this work was important. So seeing the excitement that people have about the project is amazing."