Travis Mason ’06 Serves as Chief Policy Officer for Autonomous Aviation Systems Developer
June 13, 2023
His background in autonomous flight systems includes work with Airbus and Google.
As the first ever chief policy officer for Merlin Labs, a developer of autonomous aviation systems, Travis Mason ’06 B.A. (PSc) leads a team of engineers and regulatory experts charged with ensuring the company’s new technologies meet the rigorous safety standards of an industry that has never certified these kinds of systems before.
“The company’s technologies are disrupting existing regulatory frameworks that have been in place for decades,” says Mason. As a policy officer, he adds, “You have to be a Swiss army knife because certifying this technology is not solely a regulatory, public affairs, engineering, communications, lobbying or standards development problem. Success is a combination of those efforts and more.”
Mason has extensive experience with autonomous flight systems from previous positions at Airbus and at Google, solving policy and regulatory issues for technologies such as urban air mobility and delivery drones.
He says his Maxwell education, particularly in political science and policy studies, provided a foundation in the multifaceted problem solving involved in his work. “Maxwell taught me how to widen my policy and regulatory aperture,” he says, “because that’s what creates success when certifying autonomous technologies in and outside aviation.”
Mason gave the keynote address at the launch of the Autonomous Systems Policy Institute (ASPI) in 2019. He sees the work of ASPI in a similar light. “ASPI plays the important role of bringing together a diverse set of people, viewpoints and ideas to solve the wicked challenges of regulating autonomous systems,” he says. “We have to think dynamically to solve this regulatory challenge; it’ll never be final or done.”
By Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
Published in the Spring 2023 issue of the Maxwell Perspective
Amid the rapid rise of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, Maxwell scholars are gathering critical data, designing policy and informing future leaders.
The four-week program is being offered by Orange Works with support from ASPI and the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
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