Raven Aerostar Meets Pandemic Challenges with Continued Innovation


Where some see obstacles, Raven Aerostar sees opportunity. Despite challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic, the core values of Raven have guided Aerostar to continue their mission to connect, protect, and save lives.

“The commitment to our team is to ensure team member safety, ensure business continuity, and communicate often and transparently,” said Scott Wickersham, Division Vice President & General Manager of Raven Aerostar.

Though many team members were working remotely, research and development efforts yielded consistent innovation on new and existing Aerostar products. The stratospheric team achieved new records in flight duration and advanced the autonomous capabilities of the Thunderhead Balloon System. Radar developments were primarily fine-tuning the HiPointer 100 design and demonstrating its capabilities on the water.

Aerostar proved to be a reliable Aerospace and Defense contractor despite government-mandated travel restrictions putting a pause on customer flight campaigns. Team members maintained communication with all existing customers, and continued to be awarded contracts during the shutdown. Since the travel restriction was lifted on June 29, Aerostar has executed 26 successful customer flights with more scheduled in coming weeks.

“We didn’t lose a step,” said Jim Nelson, Raven Aerostar’s Director of Engineering. “Once the customers came back, we were poised and ready to go. We were able to demonstrate our ability to be flexible and meet our customer’s business needs in times of uncertainty.”

Changing needs within Aerostar resulted in team members stepping up to fill new roles. Nearly 20 flight operations team members were redeployed across the organization to work on engineering support, testing, and the production line to assist in manufacturing. The position reallocation offered the opportunity for team members to add value in other departments despite a dip in typical activity.

Engineers and flight technicians weren’t the only team members staying busy. Production team members pivoted from balloons to PPE gown manufacturing after receiving a call from a local hospital fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Aerostar team members created multiple designs, hired additional personnel, and ramped up production to meet the need in the community. The team also manufactured masks for all Raven employees.

Given that the production environment requires team members to be present, Aerostar implemented safety measures such as socially distanced workspaces, daily temperature checks, and staggered shifts to minimize incoming and outgoing traffic.

“The operations and manufacturing team members worked together tremendously prioritizing our focus on keeping our team safe, providing a sense of security, and ensuring everyone’s voice was heard, all while maintaining our focus on delivering to our customers,” said Mike Zacher, Director of Operations for Raven Aerostar.

Leadership credits the success during challenging times to the overall stability of the division. Aerostar leaned on business principles pulled from their Earned Value Management System (EVMS) Certification and continuous process improvement to support operations during uncertain times.

Raven Aerostar is proud to have turned challenging times into a period of growth that establishes our position as a resilient and trustworthy organization.