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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Andrew Heafitz, 34

Invented inexpensive rocket-based surveillance systems


Andrew Heafitz acquired his first patent- for a high-speed shutter on a balsa wood camera- at age 19. Since then he has designed electric vehicles, invented a low-cost rock engine, and developed a plant growth experiment that flew on two space shuttle missions. His MIT undergraduate thesis centered on a remote-control aerial-photography system he built using a Nikon camera and a helium balloon. While he was a mechanical engineering master’s student at MIT, he installed a tiny off-the-shelf video camera inside the nose of a small rocket he’d designed. He called the device TacShot and in 2001 launched a company of the same name in Cambridge, MA. The 350-gram self-propelled rocket travels to heights of 100 meters, radioing images of the earth to a ground-based laptop. Heafitz’s software assembles the pictures into a 360-degree mosaic of the launch site. TacShot could be carried in a soldier’s backpack and deployed for aerial reconnaissance or used to assess damage at disaster sites. Heafitz won the 2002 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize and invested part of the $30,000 award in his company. With a U.S. Air Force contract to conduct proof-of-concept demonstrations, Heafitz has TacShot- and his career- on a successful trajectory.

2003 TR35 Winners

Geoffrey Barrows

Gives unmanned reconnaissance planes insect vision

Serafim Batzoglou

Devises powerful tools for assembling and analyzing genomes

Cynthia Breazeal

Constructs robots whose expressive faces convey humanlike emotions

Ian Clarke

Pioneered software that delivers Web files quickly, anonymously

Andre DeHon

Designs architectures needed to build practical molecular computers

Daniel Gottesman

Works to improve quantum computers so they can speed drug design and perform other massive computing tasks

Kathryn Guarini

Fabricates three-dimensional integrated circuits that could vastly increase computer power

Vic Gundotra

Sparked Microsofts change to .Net

Andrew Heafitz

Invented inexpensive rocket-based surveillance systems

Steven Hofmeyr

Devised software that roots out security threats to a networks operating system

Mike Horton

Engineers tiny sensors that can be spread like crumbs around a battlefield or factory

Ayanna Howard

Writes programs that more intelligently guide actions of robots

Kevin Lee

Integrates photonics and electronics on chips to speed telecommunications

Desmond Lim

Develops high-volume manufacturing lines for making optical chips into commodities

Michael OConnor

Designed an automated tractor steering system that is saving farmers bushels of money

Joe Pompei

Delivers "spotlights" of sound for use in concerts, museums, and automobiles

Jovan Popovic

Makes simpler, more powerful animation tools for novices and professionals

Thomas Reardon

Tailors Internet application to cell phones

Torsten Reil

Employs simulations of human movement to create realistically animated characters

Heike Riel

Built large, bright, organic video displays using materials dismissed by contemporaries

Maximilian Riesenhuber

Programs computers to recognize objects the way the human brain does

Linda Rottenberg

Helps entrepreneurs in emerging nations turn innovations into business

Ted Sargent

Fashions photonic circuits that could speed voice and data to homes

Tim Sibley

Serves up customized audio and video gems

Alex Vasilescu

Transforms computers ability to recognize human faaces

Lorraine Wheeler

Codes software that makes handheld computers handier

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto

Builds brain-imaging machines that are faster and cheaper than magnetic-resonance imaging equipment


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