October 16, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
Titan Aerospace has an entrepreneurial vision: to fill the void between aircraft altitudes and satellite orbits with unmanned aerial vehicles called atmosats, that bear a bit of resemblance to both. The atmosats would also heft profitable payloads aloft—from high-resolution imagery and voice-and-data services to navigation systems and monitoring technology.
What the year-old company needed next was a startup entrepreneur with a passion for aerospace and innovation who could infuse the marketplace and capital markets with excitement for expanding UAVs into the realm of commercial atmospheric satellites.
On Oct. 16, Titan, of Moriarty, N.M., announced that it had found its man: a known newsmaker in the aviation and tech industries and beyond, Vern Raburn. Raburn is an award-winning innovator and founder and former chief executive of Eclipse Aviation, where he presided, until 2008, over development of the Eclipse 500 very light jet. Raburn also is a former CEO of security software firm Symantec and software developer Slate Corp., former general manager of Lotus Development Corp., and was an early member of Microsoft’s roster, where he rose to lead the consumer products division.
Raburn is "very excited about Titan’s technology platform and market possibilities, which could dramatically shrink the cost of commercial satellite services, putting such services within reach of industries that otherwise might not be able to access conventional satellites, including agriculture companies and insurance firms," Titan said in an announcement.
For decades, innovators have chased a technological dream that—thanks to a convergence of new know-how—now makes it possible to create a market segment for the "satellite substitutes" that he will develop, Raburn said to define the challenge that awaits him at Titan.
"By delivering the value of a space satellite at a staggeringly low cost, Titan is poised to re-imagine and expand the satellite industry. I look forward to collaborating with my new colleagues at Titan to grow this important market," he said in the statement.
Raburn’s Titan appointment marks a return to the aerospace segment that follows by five years his departure from Eclipse at a time when the firm was in financial straits—and when investors and customers clamoring for refunds demanded change, as AOPA reported in July 2008. However, the Eclipse 500 jet, certified in 2006, was also seen as having "established" the VLJ category of jet aircraft weighing less than 10,000 pounds.
In 2005, the National Aeronautic Association had awarded Eclipse Aviation a Robert J. Collier Trophy for leadership, innovation, and the advancement of general aviation.
Leadership and establishing a market for an innovative product are what Titan—which in August unveiled its first "atmosat platform" SOLARA—seeks now as it works to "unlock new applications" for industries above the flight levels, said Max Yaney, the founder of the privately-held company.
"Vern’s passion for our mission is infectious and his leadership experience will be instrumental in helping us realize the tremendous market opportunity ahead for Titan," Yaney said. "We’re looking forward to working with Vern to bring our entrepreneurial vision to market."
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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