2022 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award: Peter Kunz


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Peter “Pete” Kunz, vice president and chief engineer of Boeing Phantom Works, has been named one of 11 recipients of the 2022 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award by the Penn State College of Engineering.

Kunz earned his bachelor of science in aerospace engineering in 1993 and his master of science in aerospace engineering in 1997, both at Penn State. He was a University scholar and one of the first students in the Penn State’s inaugural hands-on class on sailplanes. After graduating, he attended Stanford University as an inaugural Stanford Graduate Fellow and graduated with a doctorate in aeronautics in 2003. He worked on everything from keels — a structure that helps stability in water vessels — for the sailing competition America’s Cup to Mars aircraft, and his thesis work centered on how tiny things fly.

After graduating from Stanford, Kunz served a s defense technology consultant in Phoenix, where he and a small team developed solutions to problems faced by U.S. soldiers in combat with cameras, robots, small drones — and even duct tape and super glue. He spent a year in Afghanistan, living and working with the U.S. Army. He was honored with the Department of Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, for which the U.S. Army 3rd Special Forces Group nominated him.

In 2006, Kunz joined Inistu, a start-up in Washington, Oregon, to design small robotic aircraft systems and lead the aero-performance tam. He eventually became the chief engineer and then chief technology officer for the U.S. Marine Corps’ RQ-11A, known as Raven A, which was the first iteration of small unmanned aerial vehicle. Kunz holds 10 national and international patents related to UAV configuration, antenna concepts and UAV launch and recovery.

In 2017, Kunz joined Boeing as the chief technologist for NeXt, a division focused on manufacturing aerospace vehicles with urban air mobility, before moving to Phantom Works, which spans the Boeing defense, space and security portfolio, and acts as an incubator for the broader organization and as the capability holder for survivability and technology strategy. Kunz also serves as the Boeing chief engineer for Unpiloted Systems, with oversight and shared safety sign-off for unpiloted activities across Boeing. Most recently, Kunz and his team were instrumental in forming a joint venture with Wisk, an advanced air mobility company that developed the first all-electric, self-flying air taxi in the country, to further explore electric urban mobility.

In service to Penn State, Kunz serves as the Boeing Executive Council Sponsor for Penn State and is a current member of the Department of Aerospace Engineering Industrial and Professional Advisory Council. 


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