Max Schwartz | Unmanned Systems Institute

Max Schwartz

Dronimation, DJI Search & Rescue Drone Challenge Finalist


Max Schwartz has enjoyed many different roles in the technology industry for over 25 years. Max started building and flying radio controlled airplanes when he was 9 years old, and continued evolving that passion, graduating from Purdue University with a BS in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering. From there he went to McDonnell Douglas and was part of a team that pioneered GPS for use with our country’s first surgical strike “smart” weapons. During this period, Max was also responsible for developing the Mission Planning system, which is very similar to the ground control stations we see today. He also worked on automatic target recognition algorithms, autonomous flight, and unmanned/manned air vehicle teaming. After 10 years developing autopilots and cruise missile targeting systems, Max did a variety of things, including raising venture capital and founding an internet technology company (sold in 2005), managing large Fortune 500 software projects, and now, working in the military industry again doing mainly C4ISR technology projects. Most recently, Max entered the DJI/Ford 2016 Drone challenge and competed successfully through two rounds. His team developed integrated autonomous flight and sensor software package for DJI’s on-board SDK and mobile SDK. Max has maintained his passion for drones, and currently builds drones from scratch, leveraging the plethora of open source autopilots and mission planning software, modifying it to meet his needs for current projects.

My team has made it through the second round and fully anticipate to make it to the final competition in August. I am an aeronautical engineer and have been involved in remotely piloted aviation since 1976. I have developed guidance systems for the first cruise missiles and smart weapons (McDonnell Douglas, SLAM, JDAM, etc). My interest in the last few years ihas been on the development of software and systems autonomous UAVs. My drone team is made up of two other individuals who are both involved with Boeing’s Phantom Works. Anyway, we have been developing software for DJI’s commercial drone platform and 3DR’s open platform. I would be happy to offer to speak at the conference on the topic of building/developing autonomous drone mission software on top of these commercially available SDK’s – the pitfalls, the advantages, the risks, and the technical talent needed to do so. If you would be interested, feel free to contact me. I would not be representing a company or trying to sell anything – just looking to disseminate some of the lessons learned in building production ready, flexible autonomous mission software for commercial drones.