Jia Xu

Photo of Jia Xu
Senior Engineer and Associate Director, Acquisition and Technology Policy Center
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in aero/astro, Stanford University; M.Sc. in computational methods for aeronautics, Imperial College London; M.Sc. in international relations, London School of Economics and Political Science; B.S. in aerospace engineering, Georgia Tech


Jia Xu is a senior engineer and associate director for the RAND Acquisition and Technology Policy Center. His research interests include aircraft design, unmanned aerial vehicles, autonomy and AI, operations research, applied optimization and scientific computing. He recently led a comprehensive study of future Air Force combat search and rescue (CSAR) operations, RAND’s analytic support of DARPA’s initiatives to build the foundation of future radar systems, the development of an advanced UAV conceptual design tool for RAND and an integrated assessment of drone delivery at city scale.

He has also made core technical contributions to RAND analyses of technologies for future air dominance, air-recoverable UAVs, the robustness of the Air Force global mobility network, and the future of the NASA flight test enterprise. He developed and taught a course on Computational Methods for Operations Research and Data Science at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Prior to joining RAND, he led the aerodynamic design of the MQ-9 ER wing at General Atomics and was the aerodynamic focal of the Sea Avenger program.

Xu received his Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford. He also holds an M.Sc. in Advanced Computational Methods for Aeronautics from Imperial College London and an M.Sc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics – both completed under the tenure of a Marshall Scholarship.

Honors & Awards

  • Marshall Scholarship
  • RAND Bronze Medal Award
  • RAND Innovation Spotlight Award


  • An Australia Post drone is pictured during a delivery trial in Melbourne, April 15, 2016

    How to Prevent Drones Colliding in Crowded Skies

    The federal government should work with private firms to develop drone traffic management systems and test drone designs. This could help stimulate the development of drone aviation. It could also help modernize the air traffic control system.

    Sep 14, 2016 Newsweek

  • The DHL parcel service subsidiary of Deutsche Post AG tested a "microdrones md4-1000" for delivery of medicine

    Regulating Drone Airspace Using 'Smart Markets'

    With commercially operated autonomous drones potentially on the horizon, a policy problem is likely to emerge: allocation of scarce airspace and preferred flight paths. 'Smart markets' could help.

    Apr 19, 2016 TechCrunch