Dr. Michael Francis




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Independent Consultant

Dr. Michael Francis

Dr. Michael Francis is an aerospace executive and technologist with over 45 years’ experience across government, industry and academia. He began his career as an officer in the United States Air Force. Following graduation from the Defense Systems Management College, he managed advanced space system development efforts at what is now the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. These included satellite programs for the Strategic Defense Initiative, and later classified space system development efforts. Francis joined DARPA in 1991 to lead the US-German X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability Program. After being promoted to Colonel, Francis laid the groundwork for DARPA’s Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) program. A decade later, he would return to DARPA to serve as the DoD civilian Director for the $4B DARPA-Air Force-Navy Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) Program, the successor to UCAV and largest unmanned air system development to that point in time. In his last military assignment as the chief architect of the Pentagon’s Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office, Francis led the development of the DoD’s first integrated air and space surveillance architecture in collaboration with the National Reconnaissance Office.


Following his military retirement in 1997, Francis joined Aurora Flight Sciences, where he co-founded and served as the first president of Athena Technologies, a start-up control technology company subsequently acquired by Rockwell Collins. He later held other executive and leadership roles in the aerospace industry, serving as an executive with both Lockheed Martin and General Atomics. Most recently, Francis served as Chief, Advanced Programs and Senior Fellow with the United Technologies Research Center (UTRC), where he created and led its initiative in Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. He retired from UTRC in December 2017.


Dr. Francis holds B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Aerospace Engineering Sciences, and an honorary Doctor of Science, from the University of Colorado. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has served on major university aerospace engineering advisory boards, and currently serves on the NASA Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. He has authored or co-authored more than 40 open literature publications. Francis became a licensed private pilot in 1964, and he resides in Solana Beach, California with his wife, Barbara./p>