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Hobby Leads to New Career Path for Drone Enthusiast

Hobby Leads to New Career Path for Drone Enthusiast

When Andrew Baker joined Honeywell 27 years ago drones didn’t even exist. Nearly three decades later, he has his “dream job” as a lead systems engineer in the company’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) group.

But none of this would have been possible without a gutsy email Baker sent to former Honeywell Aerospace Technologies Chief Technology Officer Bob Smith. Baker was inspired to reach out in 2013 after viewing a 60-Minutes interview with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who talked about the future of delivery drones.

For years Baker had been building drones in his garage and traveling to conventions across the U.S. to demonstrate their capabilities. However, seeing the Bezos interview piqued his interest about future potential applications for drones.

“I thought to myself, ‘Man, Honeywell has got to get involved in this industry,’” said Baker. “I knew these lightweight vehicles were the future of aerospace so the very next day I sent an email to Bob Smith about my involvement in the drone community. Shockingly he responded fairly quickly. I was expecting this to go nowhere, but the rest as they say is history.”

The UAS/UAM team started with four employees in 2019 and has grown to more than 30 team members. In just five years Honeywell has become a leading force in the rapidly growing advanced air mobility sector with avionics, propulsion, radar and other systems that make these exciting new aircraft safer, more efficient and more autonomous.

Examples include lightweight fly-by-wire flight control systems, actuation systems, aerial detect and avoid technology, navigation systems, satellite communications systems and the aviation’s first 1-megawatt turbogenerator.

Baker’s first job at Honeywell was as a mechanical engineer in Glendale, Ariz., where he helped build subcomponents for the International Space Station. As a lifelong aviation lover, it was so exciting for Baker to know something he assembled was going to space.

“Even as a small child, I was fascinated with the aviation industry which manifested itself into a lasting hobby of aero modeling, specifically radio-controlled airplanes,” he said. “It was something my dad and I did together from the time I was very young and my passion for this hobby grew as I got older.”

“As an engineer, I love to tinker and build things with my hands,” Baker added. “Aero modeling was right up my alley. To build something from a box of wood and miscellaneous parts and have it fly, was a great feeling of accomplishment.”

Baker’s passion for building remote-controlled planes evolved and in 2012 he was introduced to do-it-yourself drone kits, which were starting to appear in the marketplace. These were different than the traditional RC kits because there were no real resources or community of people to go to with questions.

At the time, the drone kits were not turnkey and there was a lot of trial and error and some frustration for the builders. Along with the frames, motors and electronics, fanatics also had to learn to program the flight controllers, which half the time didn’t work.

“Truthfully, I didn’t mind the failures with these first drones,” said Baker. “As a person with an engineering heart, I know the best way to grow is to improve upon failure, it’s just part of the process. With the first drones, it was essential to have patience and persevere through the malfunctions, that’s how I continued to learn.”

Baker never imagined his hobby would turn into my full-time job. “You always want to have a purpose and something that inspires you to get up every day, no matter what your career is. Having your job align with your passion is a real bonus. For most people, a job is a means to an end, but that’s not the case for me,” he said.

“One of the best things about working at Honeywell is you never know what you are going to be doing a year from now, and definitely not five or 10 years from now,” Baker concluded. “The idea that I am flying drones – and getting paid to do it – is truly remarkable.”  

Ready to learn more about the latest in technology for many of the primary systems found on these new aircraft? Let us know using the form below.
Alison Wyrick
Director, Global Customer Marketing