LOWERING COSTS OF HIGH-FLYING DATA

(L-R) Jason Keasler and Thomas Byrd (with co-founder Joe Rjeli)
(L-R) Jason Keasler and Thomas Byrd (with co-founder Joe Rjeli)
(L-R) Jason Keasler and Thomas Byrd (with co-founder Joe Rjeli)
(L-R) Jason Keasler and Thomas Byrd (with co-founder Joe Rjeli)
Entrepreneurs thrive on sharing knowledge and ideas with one other and finding novel solutions to vexing problems. So it was when Professional MBA Program students Thomas Byrd and Jason Keasler discussed the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in March 2015. Despite satellite and land-based systems, experts have been unable to find the aircraft, its passengers, crew or the data-filled black boxes that might explain its fate. That got the pair talking about tracking technology and how it might be used for those black boxes.

That was the genesis of AlulA Aerospace, a startup that has developed a patent-pending device to stream planes’ blackbox data in real time, co-founded by Byrd, Keasler, and Joe Rjeili (MSECE ’04). “The Malaysia Airlines flight would not have disappeared with our system,” Keasler insists.

The founders came together in an intersection of personal, professional and academic pursuits. Keasler, after earning a BS in marketing and a masters in IT management, became an Army intelligence officer based at the U.S. Southern Command in Doral, Florida. Longtime aviation enthusiast Byrd, who had a BS in aerospace engineering and private pilot’s license, commissioned in the Marine Corps, eventually also landing at SOUTHCOM as an intelligence officer. He met Keasler there, after the two discovered they were both enrolled in the school’s Professionals MBA Program. Rjeili, who has a degree in radio communications engineering, joined them once the AlulA notion took flight. The trio’s collective brainpower is producing the AlulA Heart, a small device that will be installed on aircraft to collect flight data. But instead of retaining data for later use, the AlulA Heart will stream it in real-time to a worldwide, crowdsourced network of individual receivers. “That’s what sets us apart,” Byrd explains. The network was created by AlulA’s working partner, which solicits volunteers and enthusiasts to set up aviation data-collection stations to track aircraft. AlulA will tap into this network and sell the data to airlines, aircraft manufacturers and U.S. government agencies at costs far below prices now charged by conventional in-air satellite transmission providers. In addition to being able to track any plane in the air, Byrd adds, AlulA will relay aircraft equipment data to airlines and component manufacturers in real time, allowing them to have appropriate maintenance crews and equipment meet a plane on the ground and begin work immediately upon landing.

Rjeili and Keasler are already working full-time on AlulA and Byrd will join them this winter, once he has completed his military service and the MBA program, which turned out to be a valuable resource for the business. “We’re always trying to relate what we’re learning in class to AlulA,” Byrd says. Think of it as a connecting flight to entrepreneurship.
Back to top