Meet some team members
Sameera Ponda, Aerospace Engineer
In her first year at MIT, Sam took "Introduction to Aerospace Engineering and Design,” a class where she learned what engineering was all about. The final project was to build a balloon-style blimp that could fly around the gym as fast as possible. Enjoying the application of math and science towards practical purposes, she decided to major in Aerospace Engineering. Sam went on to receive her PhD from MIT in the same field, focusing on how to design controllers for aerial vehicles and how to oversee autonomous fleet management and operations in uncertain environments.
These experiences led Sam to Loon, where she leads the Planning, Simulation, and Controls software team, developing algorithms for balloon navigation, autonomous fleet management, wind fusion and forecasting, monitoring fleet health and safety, and simulating future projected paths. Sam and her team also work closely with the business and engineering teams to analyze balloon performance and make decisions about the overall system, such as fleet sizing, how many batteries and solar panels we need, and what our optimal antenna choices are.
Leonard Bouygues, Aviation
With his keen interest in engineering and appetite for business, Leonard earned a master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Imperial College and two master’s degrees in management, one from HEC Paris and one from MIT. Leonard’s unique background and passion for aviation made him an excellent fit for the Loon team, where he began working with international regulators to secure required permissions, a role for which his French fluency came in handy.
Leonard now manages Loon’s airborne operations -- Loon Mission Control -- which runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, overseeing the balloons from the moment they leave the ground until the moment they are guided back down to Earth. Loon Mission Control works with air-traffic control services, aviation authorities, and civil and military aviation authorities around the world to align on operational procedures for this entirely new system. Leonard and the team of systems experts constantly monitor the airborne fleet to ensure safety and compliance with regulations.