Roland A. Boucher, engineer and inventor who founded AstroFlights, which worked with electric-powered radio controlled aircraft and developed the world's first solar-powered aircraft.
Roland A. Boucher was born July 12, 1932 in Windham County, Connecticut. He attended Yale University, graduating with a Master’s of Science in Engineering in 1955. After graduation, Boucher joined the Hughes Aircraft Corporation of Culver City, CA. He was assigned to coordinate the test and evaluation of the avionics equipment used on the F-106 first line fighter aircraft then in production. Within ten years he rose to the position of Engineering Manager and was involved in the design of satellites for communications and navigation, during which time he developed an improved satellite camera for meteorological photographs. He then conceived, developed, and demonstrated the feasibility of satellite to aircraft communications at VHF frequencies. In 1968 Boucher developed the first air mobile satellite television transmission station, used in Columbia during the 1968 visit of Pope Paul VI and later in China during the 1972 Nixon Presidential visit.
He left employment with Hughes Aircraft Company in 1973 to form a company - Astro Flights, a manufacturer of products for electric-powered radio controlled aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, brushless industrial motors, the world's first solar-powered aircraft and the world's first practical electric radio controlled model airplane. Astro Flight was awarded a DARPA contract through Lockheed in 1974 in order to build the Sunrise, the world's first solar-powered airplane. The historic flight, powered only by sunlight, took place November 4, 1974 at Fort Irwin, California. Two Astro Flight Astro 40 ferrite motors powered the craft via a 6:1 gearbox swinging a 36x24 wood propeller. More than one thousand solar cells on the wing were the sole source of energy, producing roughly 450 watts of power. 1975 saw damage to Sunrise I in a windstorm. It also saw the introduction of the improved Sunrise II, built in just three months.
In 1975 Boucher conceived and developed a radio controlled electric model car, and along with his wife, Nancy, formed Leisure Electronics to manufacture and market the product. Unsuccessful at first, it soon became a big hit with toy sellers throughout the nation. In 2000 he was inducted into the Academy of Model Aviation (AMA) Model Aviation Hall of Fame.
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