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Frontiers June 2013 Issue

“I like the opportunities the company has given me. I’ve ... gotten to see lots of things for someone who’s only 25 years old.” – Caitlin Lynch, Insitu events management crazy idea of snagging the aircraft out of midair with a rope, we wouldn’t be where we’re at today. It’s one of the main reasons for ScanEagle’s success. We don’t need airfields or runways for deployment or landing. We can operate off ships, even off small fishing boats.” With Boeing’s help, Insitu developed ScanEagle after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. The partnership formally began in 2002, and the first ScanEagles were shipped to Iraq in 2004. In July 2008, Boeing announced an agreement to acquire Insitu as a separate subsidiary. Boeing and Insitu executives said at the time the acquisition was part of an aggressive plan by Boeing to grow its presence in the unmanned systems market. “This agreement allows us to leverage the breadth and strength of Boeing to get our organization to the next level,” Insitu said when the acquisition was announced. Insitu soon opened a branch office in Queensland, Australia, underscoring the importance of the fast-growing international market for unmanned systems such as ScanEagle. Although Insitu is a wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing, it has kept its small-company culture. Boeing wanted it that way, so Insitu could retain the unique culture and environment that drives its inno-vation and entrepreneurial agility. That culture has been a magnet for those also drawn to the area’s way of life and recreational opportunities. “This is the coolest company to work for,” said Caitlin Lynch, who handles events management for Insitu. Lynch started as an intern in 2008 and returned as a full-time employee in 2009 after graduating from college. During her year away, the company nearly doubled its employee head count. “I like the opportunities the company has given me. I’ve met so many interesting people and gotten to see lots of things for someone who’s only 25 years old,” said Lynch, who has met generals and traveled to a number of different countries on Insitu’s behalf. She said the small-company atmosphere and its internship program have allowed her to explore and soak up information “like a sponge.” PHOTOS:Even though Insitu has grown significantly since the acquisition, employees say they have also learned and benefited from Boeing’s decades of development and prototyping experience. “As a parent company, Boeing has given Insitu better access to a library of standards for leadership and best practices, said Taylor Schwartz, integrated product team lead for ScanEagle ground control station. Added Chuck Roberts, an engineering technician who works in the Engineering facility in Oregon: “We need Boeing. They can guide us because they’ve been there.” Trevino, the Insitu flight instructor, noted that Boeing has “pro-vided tremendous opportunities to meet with potential customers, especially internationally.” As Insitu’s customer base has grown, so have visits—sometimes by international military officials—to Insitu’s modest headquarters. In 2009, about 30 groups visited Insitu. That doubled to 60 in 2010, a level that’s stayed about the same since. Insitu employees work out of several buildings spread across the Columbia River Gorge area of Washington and Oregon. Most of the employees will be brought together when a new complex in Bingen is completed. The current headquarters is on the highway that serves as Bingen’s main street, right next to an antique shop and not far from Bingen’s lumber mill. The area’s landscape is 24 BOEING FRONTIERS / JUNE 2013 (Above, from left) The business end of a ScanEagle; Kevin Block, aircraft systems technician, works on a ScanEagle payload; Tom Sawyer, aircraft repair technician. (Right) Erika Langhauser, left, and Edward Lee, both software integration engineers, run tests on a sensor. dominated by the hills and bluffs that rise from either side of the wide Columbia River. The new complex under construction is located in a business and industrial park setting near the river called Bingen Point. Reflecting the unassuming storefront office building in which the company is now based, Insitu employees dress in “business casual.” On some days, employees are welcome to bring their dogs to the office. While employees make clear they work hard, many say they go directly from work to skiing, windsurfing or biking, depending on the season. “You don’t live in the Gorge and come to work in a suit,” Schwartz said. While attending Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., Schwartz interned in 2004 for Insitu when it had fewer than 100 employees. He began working there in 2007. Of course, the Insitu culture is much more than what employees wear to work. Some of the first employees were avid windsurfers who had experience working with the composite materials used in windsurfing and snowboard manufacturing. Lightweight (Continued on Page 29)


Frontiers June 2013 Issue
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