Naverus, Extra $4M in Tow, Looks to Redesign Flight Paths, Saving Time, Fuel, and Emissions

There’s a saying in sports that if you don’t notice the referees, they’re doing a great job. The same goes for offensive linemen in football, tech support in big companies…and Kent, WA-based Naverus when you’re flying in an airplane. Sure, we in the media notice companies like Naverus when they raise $4 million in venture funding in a tough climate for follow-on financing (announced last Friday). But, truth be told, we’ve had our eye on this interesting aircraft-navigation tech company for a while now.

Naverus was founded in 2003 by a pair of Alaska Airlines pilots, Steve Fulton and Hal Andersen, and former Coinstar CEO Dan Gerrity. The idea was to commercialize an emerging technique known as “required navigation performance” (RNP), which harnesses advanced avionics and GPS technology to guide airplanes’ flight paths on approaches and departures in such a precise way as to do away with ground-based navigation—and what’s more, make flight paths faster and more fuel-efficient, and reduce carbon emissions to boot. The technique was originally developed to help planes take off and land at Juneau International Airport and other remote locations where pilots have to deal with dangerous weather conditions and mountains.

It’s all part of a broader shift in aviation practices called Performance-based Navigation, which uses cutting-edge sensors, communications equipment, and sophisticated flight computers, to work out airplanes’ flight paths—an area that Naverus contributes to across the board. The company has been part of a “fundamental transformation of how air navigation takes place,” says Dottie Hall, chief marketing officer at Naverus. Hall would know; she was a founding vice president of Eclipse Aviation in Albuquerque, NM, and has owned and managed touring operations of vintage airplanes, including her own 1950s-era Lockheed Constellation. And yes, she has her pilot’s license. (Hall was also a very early employee at Microsoft in the late 1970s, but that’s another story.)

To give some idea of the benefits of Naverus’s technology, Hall points out that Southwest Airlines, a flagship customer, saves on the order of one minute per flight using RNP—and that translates into about 155,000 tons of carbon dioxide saved per year. Fuel savings are in the ballpark of … Next Page »

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