Draper Relies on IT to Enable Human Progress

Draper puts their brainpower and modern technologies to work in order to solve some of our most pressing challenges—in security, space, healthcare, energy and the environment. Draper's CIO, Michael Crones, reflects on how technology has advanced their innovation, and the importance of working with partners that have shared values.

By Michael Crones, CIO, Draper

As an R&D organization, we at Draper perform life-changing research and develop solutions to address some of the world’s most urgent problems. But our innovations in space exploration, life sciences, human-centered engineering, autonomous systems, and other disciplines couldn’t happen without modern digital technology and collaborative partnerships.

Technology fuels innovation

When I joined Draper in 2015, it was still very much an engineering company. In addition to its traditional U.S. government clients, Draper was branching out in an effort to deliver innovation and create solutions for commercial enterprises and academia. I decided I could make the best contribution by bringing about beneficial change and finding ways to use technology to spearhead transformations. Our CEO supported me in this, and the company was ready for IT to play a larger part in leading innovation.

It gives me great joy to drive our strategy as an advisor who sees what technology can help us accomplish—and can put it into practice. Technology has opened the floodgates to immense innovation. It makes it possible to harvest and process enormous masses of data, and it positions scientists and researchers to expand the horizon of the possible every day. I am still excited to see what we can accomplish in the future, IT has never been better primed to make a lasting difference.

A new voyage to the moon

Our participation in NASA’s initiative to return to the moon might be the most dramatic effort where technology plays a crucial role. Draper is on track to provide descent guidance and flight avionics for NASA’s Human Landing System for the Artemis program, which aims to establish a presence on the moon by 2024. This is a sensational, once-in-a-lifetime undertaking, and what I find just as intriguing is that research and engineering in space can lead to practical, important benefits for people.

An example: One of our in-space projects is the “take me home” button on an astronaut’s suit. If astronauts become disoriented during a spacewalk, hitting that button would redirect them back to the spacecraft. You could transfer that solution into people’s daily lives. How do we install this technology on firefighters’ jackets, so they can get to safety when they must rush out of a burning building? That research is possible right now.

Creating transformative outcomes

You find some of the best talent in the industry here. Draper is the rare company where a high-caliber scientist, a former four-star general, and a recent university graduate may work together to solve difficult problems. Part of IT’s mission is to help them accomplish that, even when they are not in the same room together.

“Draper is the rare company where a high-caliber scientist, a former four-star general, and a recent university graduate may work together to solve difficult problems..”

—Michael Crones, CIO of Draper

For that reason, we have enabled our entire workforce to do their jobs and collaborate with others, no matter where they are. In the second hour of their first day here, new employees receive a mobile device that fits the needs of their role. They can visit a secure portal to provision digital assets and resources for themselves instead of waiting for assistance from IT.

With their digital devices and resources, new team members can be productive immediately. They also see that we are ready to follow through when we talk about empowering people. By giving employees the tools to be effective, we help them maintain their enthusiasm and encourage their creativity in how they approach challenges and support our clients.

Partnerships strengthened by shared values

As we push forward, every day brings new adventures and challenges. Collaborating with technology partners that understand our goals and can contribute creative solutions to help us achieve them is crucial to keeping us on track. Dell Technologies and Draper are well-matched as both companies have an engineering background and have taken giant strides in transforming themselves to bring positive change to the world. When it comes to innovation, we speak the same language.

We plan on collaborating with Dell Technologies as we advance toward the cloud, using our hyper-converged infrastructure as a gateway. I’ve always been impressed with the way Dell Technologies shares solution roadmaps and directional insight and listens to our feedback. Cloud infrastructure is not the only joint effort I look forward to.

I also anticipate more teaming up on AI initiatives. Draper and Dell Technologies are already enabling AI in pattern recognition for satellite imagery for such use cases as monitoring disease outbreaks and tracking severe weather events. We can accomplish much more together in AI and other disciplines.

Read the full story to discover how Draper drives innovative transformation.