2023 Forty Under 40: Aaron Pierce

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(IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

CEO | Pierce Aerospace

The motivation behind Aaron Pierce’s entrepreneurship is personal. He said his grandfather, Weldon Pierce, survived one of the worst friendly-fire incidents in U.S. history when members of the 30th Infantry Division were accidentally bombed in France during World War II. Now, Pierce Aerospace builds remote drone identification technologies for both military and civilian use. Think of the technology as providing digital license plates that help identify a drone and its pilot for airspace safety, security and management. Pierce has secured multiple U.S. Air Force contracts; serves on an international committee, ASTM, that helps shape aviation technical standards for drones; and speaks internationally on drone technologies. “As a legacy of a fratricide survivor, I am incredibly passionate that this type of tragedy is avoided with modern military technology,” he said.

Getting here: He recognized an opportunity while writing a drone policy and operations manual in graduate school at IUPUI. “I’ve always loved aviation.” He served as a civilian crew member on UH-1H Huey helicopters, “and it was clear that drones were going to shake things up and make waves across the airspace and the many industries they impact.”

First job: He made sandwiches at Jersey Mike’s.

Mentor: Warren Katz, managing director of the Techstars Autonomous Technology Accelerator with the U.S.
Air Force.

Influential moment: Pierce was invited in the fall of 2017 to discuss his remote-identification concepts at the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization headquarters in Montreal. “This threshold moment catapulted interest in Pierce Aerospace and defined our direction for several years,” he said.

Givebacks: He served on the board of the Stutz Artist Association and now serves as president of the Indiana chapter of the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International, the world’s largest organization dedicated to the advancement of uncrewed systems and robotics.

Advice: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, get used to being told ‘no,’ inoculate yourself to stress, and do not hesitate to pursue your vision. Life is tragically short. Pursue your dreams. It’s worth it.”•

Check out more Forty Under 40 honorees.

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