Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc. is a private company, headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and founded in 2015. The company’s purpose is both licensing and commercialization of NASA flight safety technologies and also developing and marketing new situational awareness, collision avoidance and autonomous flight products for both manned and unmanned aircraft.
The company builds upon the experience of its founders, who have backgrounds in technology commercialization, mission-critical software development, online systems management, and geospatial information systems. Our management, development and governance team is made up of experienced executives, engineers and investors who have over two decades of experience in building and growing companies and deploying new technologies as investors, operators, advisors and board members.
The Vigilant Aerospace Team
CEO and Co-Founder
Kraettli L. Epperson is CEO and co-founder of Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc. He has a 20-year career as a technology company executive and founder, advisor and investor. Mr. Epperson focuses on identifying and developing disruptive technology companies that have a positive, world-changing impact and that facilitate greater openness and access to information and opportunity. He began his career as a software developer and architect and has expertise in software project management, data systems design and geospatial systems. He has founded, co-founded or advised 25 technology companies including as co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Questia Media which built the world’s largest online academic digital library for high school and college students and was acquired by Gale Publishing in 2010. He was also the co-founder, inventor, patent holder and chairman of HyperAlert, a leading voice response and crisis communications system serving 5 of the top 20 transit agencies in the US. He is also the co-founder and chairman of R7 Solutions, which provided the software and systems to manage the land and right-of-way data for Houston METRO’s $1Bn regional rail expansion. As an investment fund manager, in 2013 he co-founded and managed a venture accelerator that in 24 months launched 11 startups, 5 of which acquired funding on multi-million-dollar valuations. He also created and served as an adjunct professor of Rice University’s first undergraduate program in entrepreneurship.
Business Development Manager
Ryan Aasheim, Business Development Manager of Vigilant Aerospace Systems, directs efforts to catalyze and promote science, technology, training and engineering initiatives that support new economic opportunities. Ryan has supported and more recently served as the lead in organizing more than 24 industry specific Action Summits, including Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Life Sciences, Small Business and Precision Agriculture. Previously, Ryan served as economic development director for U. S. Senator Byron Dorgan. He has worked closely with community and state leaders, economic developers, industry executives, university officials and high tech research interests to advance a wide variety projects. He served as adviser to the Senator on various issues concerning economic development activities, community projects, university research, commercialization and technology transfer efforts, flood and disaster situations and numerous other public policy issues. Ryan earned a degree in business administration and minor in accounting from North Dakota State University and is a member of the Great Plains UAS Industry Alliance (GPUIA).
Board Chairman and Co-Founder
Robert Heard, Vigilant Aerospace Systems’ board chairman, is a Co-Founder and Managing Director of Cimarron Capital Partners. The firm invests in venture capital and private equity funds. Affiliates have managed development accounts and advised hundreds of young companies on commercializing new technologies. He is a member of the National Advisory Council of the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer. Robert has co-authored several practical guides on venture investing, including “Seed Investing as a Team Sport,” “Swing for the Fences–Seed Investing for Entrepreneurs,” “Growing New Businesses with Seed and Venture Capital –State Experiences and Options,” the “Innovation Finance Reference Guide,” and “Mexico Fund of Funds Analysis and Recommendations.”
CFO and Co-Founder
Michael Tharp, CFA, CFO and Co-Founder of Vigilant Aerospace Systems is a Cimarron Capital Partners Co-Founder and Managing Director. Cimarron is an investment firm specializing in the venture capital and private equity alternative asset sub-class. Mike has served on the advisory board of a number of venture capital and private equity funds and, through his service, has seen many investments in tech companies both fail and succeed. Cimarron affiliates have worked with hundreds of startup firms addressing promising new markets with potential solutions. He has served as an instructor for multiple years at the Venture Capital Institute and as program chairman for several years for the Institutional Limited Partners’ Association. His 30-year career has focused on creating and managing investment programs for institutional investors.
Administrative and Marketing Assistant
Andrea Jones, Administrative and Marketing Assistant of Vigilant Aerospace Systems, has been working with technology startups and entrepreneurship groups since 2013. Andrea graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma with B.A. in English. She has received recognition for statewide honors as an Oklahoma EPSCoR Research finalist and Brad Henry Scholar. Andrea is active in the Oklahoma tech community and regularly attends community meetings for Oklahoma City Game Developers and Women in Technology.
Founding Seed Investors
The company is backed with seed funding from Cimarron Capital Partners (together with its affiliates “CCP”). It’s Managing Directors serve as the initial board of directors for the company.
CCP is a venture capital and asset management firm based in the central US and with offices in Oklahoma City and Little Rock. Cimarron Capital has supported over 200 technology companies through its investments in venture capital funds across the U.S. Also, through its Development Capital Networks (DCN) affiliate, Cimarron has assisted over 500 SBIR grantees of the National Science Foundation on the development of technology commercialization plans, through its World’s Best Technologies (WBT) affiliate, Cimarron has helped over 800 technologists and startup entrepreneurs connect with seed-stage investors and licensees. As angel investors, Cimarron principals have invested in companies engaged in water purification, subsurface fluid monitoring, drug delivery and medical equipment design.
- Oklahoma is a national leader for unmanned aerial systems research and testing.
- Oklahoma has a low cost of operations, a high quality of life and an educated, loyal aviation workforce.
- Oklahoma is home to the US Small Business Administration’s new UAS Cluster Initiative.
- Oklahoma is home to 500 aviation-related companies and the industry contributes over $12Bn in annual revenues to the state economy.
- Aviation is the second most important manufacturing industry in Oklahoma, coming second only to oil and gas equipment manufacturing.
- Aviation provides 143,000 good paying jobs in the state. One of every 11 workers in Oklahoma are in or around the aviation industry.
- Oklahoma was the Department of Homeland Security’s selected site for its small UAS Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) program that supports first responders.
- Oklahoma State University in Stillwater has the only UAS master’s and Ph.D. programs in the nation.
- University of Oklahoma researchers are using UAS platforms for weather and radar-related research, and, along with OSU, are collaborating with the National Severe Storms Laboratory to use UAS to characterize severe storms.
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