ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Vern Raburn, the founder and former CEO of Eclipse Aviation Corp., is at the helm of another New Mexico aviation-pioneering startup.
Titan Aerospace, a small company that’s building a new solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle in Moriarty, hopes to get a very high-profile boost from its new chairman and CEO.
Eclipse pioneered creation of the world’s first “very light jet” before the company went bankrupt in 2009. Eclipse was later revived by new owners, who bought the company out of bankruptcy, relaunched it as Eclipse Aerospace, and now continue to build jets in Albuquerque.
But Raburn gained international notice for having raised more than $1 billion to build the original Eclipse 500 jet, helping to launch an entirely new very-light-jet segment in the aviation industry.
Raburn has maintained a low profile since he left Eclipse. But he said he joined Titan because it offers another chance to pioneer new technology developments in the aviation and satellite industries.
“Startups, technology and aviation – that’s what I’ve spent most of my career doing,” Raburn told the Journal . “I’ve been there, seen it, done it. It’s something I enjoy.”
Titan, which formed in 2012, is building a solar-powered UAV that can remain aloft for up to five years while providing satellite services for users from an altitude of just 65,000 feet. That’s higher than planes normally fly and much lower than where satellites generally operate.
The company calls them commercial atmospheric satellites, or “atmosats,” which could greatly lower the cost of launching and accessing satellite services.
“The company is going after a market that sits between satellites and airplanes,” Raburn said. “It will operate in a slice of airspace not used today.”
Titan has raised about $2 million to date in startup capital from private investors. Raburn hopes to raise an additional $6 million to scale up its current prototype and fully prove its technology before beginning commercial production.
Titan founder and chief technology officer, Max Yaney, said he expects Raburn to inspire employees. The company currently has 20 people at the Moriarty Municipal Airport, a number that could double in the next year.
“Vern’s passion for our mission is infectious, and his leadership experience will be instrumental in helping us realize the tremendous market opportunity ahead,” Yaney said in a statement.