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Work at Shield AI, Build Autonomy for Jets… and Maybe Even Fly in One! 

Working at the intersection of cutting-edge AI, autonomy, and robotics in a fast-paced, rapidly growing tech company is an engineer’s dream come true. Solving the most challenging engineering problems on a mission that matters, there are only a handful of companies in the world that offer such a rare combination. Tesla and SpaceX come to mind. However, the opportunity to watch my algorithms perform from the backseat of a jet aircraft flying at 500 mph is truly one-of-a-kind. 

One of my most unforgettable experiences at Shield AI was taking to the skies in the backseat of an L-39 chase plane. This wasn’t just for fun—though it was incredibly thrilling—it was a critical part of our flight test operations. Our mission was to ensure our autonomy could seamlessly communicate within the confines of regulated airspace, a task that had us performing a comprehensive comms check from the edges of our flight boundaries.  

Everything unfolded so quickly. The opportunity for a flight window emerged, and with the new radio delivered, the decision to conduct a comms check was made swiftly. Chosen by our program manager and my manager, I couldn’t resist joining pilot Tom “Mach” Schnell in the chase plane. Barely processing the rapid developments, I soon found myself suited up and briefed on safety, my nerves giving way to awe as we took off. The experience of pulling intense g-forces and performing aileron rolls was exhilarating, despite my efforts to keep composed. It was an unforgettable adventure, profoundly thanking everyone involved for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Before joining Shield AI, I cut my teeth at Lockheed Martin, working on pivotal defense projects like the Aegis missile defense system and hypersonic programs. While I treasure my time and the knowledge gained there, transitioning to Shield AI has allowed me to dive deeper and faster into hands-on engineering challenges. At Shield AI, I work as an autonomy engineer, crafting behaviors for the autonomy systems deployed across various platforms.  

We work in small teams and focus on algorithm design and implementation for various aircraft behaviors. There is a lot of collaboration between teammates as we bounce around ideas and help each other integrate, test, and assess performance. Our approach is very “go-fast” so we implement and test ideas quickly in order to find issues and iterate to achieve optimal solutions. In addition, we consult with current and former U.S. Air Force pilots to ensure that our solutions align with military concepts of operation. Everyone is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable as many of us have defense backgrounds but in different areas of defense. Our managers are technical as well, so we have great working relationships with our leads. 

The pace at Shield AI is swift, and the connection to the products we’re developing is direct and tangible. In less than a year, I found myself not just contributing to, but leading efforts that have a direct impact on our products’ performance and success. 

After a few months at Shield, I was put on one of our big efforts to deploy autonomy on jets. This was a big learning and growing opportunity for me as the work involved path planning and obstacle avoidance for aircrafts in a tight and restricted airspace. As a result, I worked closely with a teammate that had a PhD and a background in aircraft dynamics and motion planning, so I was able to learn some basics from him and expand on that information to design my own aircraft behaviors. My approach was to come up with an initial solution based on modifications to existing path planning algorithms and then refine the solution through rigorous integration testing. In the end, the behaviors turned out to be very successful and the team was given kudos by real pilots, who were helping us with the live-flight effort. 

My experience at Lockheed Martin laid a solid foundation in systems engineering, contributing to significant projects like Aegis and space-based hypersonics. However, it was the prospect of being closer to the product development process and having a tangible impact that drew me to Shield AI. Here, I’ve been able to see the immediate results of our work, something that was harder to come by in a larger integrator setup. 

When asked what advice I would give to aspiring engineers interested in autonomy and defense, or engineers considering a shift from a large integrator to a company like Shield AI, my answer is simple: stay in learning mode. Embrace the diverse educational backgrounds and experiences of your colleagues, as this will make you a more versatile and effective engineer. At Shield AI, our team’s varied expertise is our strength, united by a belief in our mission and a dedication to engineering excellence. 

As a first-generation American with immigrant parents, my work is fueled by a deep sense of patriotism and a commitment to ensuring the free world maintains clear dominance in autonomous defense technologies. The technology we are building at Shield AI will deter global conflict and keep service members and civilians out of harm’s way. It’s an exciting time to be at Shield AI, and I look forward to the challenges and achievements that lie ahead. 


About Alysha Singh  

Hailing from Fairfield, Connecticut, Alysha earned her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, with a minor in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a Master of Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University. After six years at Lockheed Martin, Alysha joined Shield AI as an autonomy engineer, bringing her expertise to the forefront of defense technology innovation. In her free time, Alysha enjoys spending time with family and friends and enjoying all that the great outdoors have to offer. Her time in Colorado allowed her to appreciate the beauty in nature and now she can’t get enough of it! From snowboarding to hiking, she loves any outdoor activities and loves sharing those hobbies with her family and friends. 

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