Executive Leadership Team

Douglas Bennett, CEO and Founder

Douglas Bennett focuses on the advanced technology, financial, and legal aspects of AURA.

Mr. Bennett started his career at the CIA and was assigned to the advanced R&D division of the NRO. He has also served as a Study Director for the National Academy of Science’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. In that role, he crafted public policy for the U.S. federal and state governments that shaped the United States future technology development. Douglas has served as a consultant to NASA, the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare (SpaWar) Systems Center, the US Air Force Laboratory, and DARPA.

Mr. Bennett spent 2 years conducting oceanographic research onboard ships, working for the Marine Division of Schlumberger, Inc., in the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico. His work has included extensive international collaborations with Europe, Latin America, North America, Australasia, Japan, and the West Indies.

Mr. Bennett has worked in and founded numerous companies and has decades of experience developing advanced technologies, building technology portfolios valued at over $200M USD.

Douglas Bennett received a Mechanical Engineering Degree from Georgia Tech. He also holds a Master’s in English, Creative Writing from Iowa State University, and a second Master’s in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies – concentrating on Astrophysics, English, and Political Science. He is a designated outstanding alumni from Iowa State.

Anna Bennett, President and Founder

Anna Bennett focuses on the commercial, product development, and core operations of AURA, including developing and implementing strategy for scaling for the ongoing exponential growth of the company.  

Ms. Bennett’s expertise resides in bringing order to complex, multi-leveled organizations driven by technical innovation, while maintaining a strong focus on staff development and culture. The work Anna has led included revolutions in efficiency; her initiatives over the years have saved hundreds of thousands of labor hours for companies.

Ms. Bennett spent nearly 20 years in the biopharmaceutical industry, where she most recently was the Head of Global Content Development at IQVIA, the world’s largest life sciences data health company. There she rebuilt the operations of a ~200-person global department. Prior to IQVIA, Anna worked at GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceuticals where she initiated processes, improvements, and employee training programs to support the enterprises’ goals. Her work at GSK and IQVIA revolutionized communications to doctors and patients for clinical trials and expedited FDA-approval for drugs that benefited millions of patients worldwide. 

Anna Bennett holds a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt from Villanova University, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Mark Maxwell, EVP Defense Programs

Captain Mark Maxwell retired from the US Navy in 2016 as the military lead for Advanced Manufacturing technology for the Naval Air Command. Capt. Maxwell worked for over 25 years in the maintenance and sustainment of US Navy aircraft. He also worked as a Quality Engineering Manager and Lean Six Sigma Blackbelt. He holds certifications as a DAWIA Level III Program Manager, ASQC Quality Engineer, Technician and Auditor, ISO-9000 Auditor, LEAN Bronze (ASME), and several space application soldering standards (NHB5300 and J-STD-001).

During his career span, Mark continued his commitment as a Naval Reservist as an Aviation Maintenance Officer. As a Reservist he managed Organizational, Intermediate, and Depot level maintenance providers for H-2, H-3, P-3, and GIV Gulfstream aircraft and then  transitioned to NAVAIR as an Acquisition Program Manager and Military Director for Additive Manufacturing & Digital Thread.

Robert (Robb) Pinkerton, EVP, Technology Programs

Throughout his career, Robb Pinkerton has held leadership positions with Northrup Grumman (NGC), Orbital Sciences ATK, Lockheed Martin, and Motorola, and served as Chief Engineer on the NASA Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, LandSat 8, and Iridium NEXT programs. Robb was also Lead Power Systems Engineer on the International Space Station, and others including Magellan, a satellite that made a topographical map of Venus. Robb served on the AIAA Space Power Technical Committee for over ten years, in all positions of leadership. He also served in all positions of leadership on the Intersociety Energy Conversion Engineering Conference (IECEC) Committee.

Robb has received numerous awards including the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal, multiple NASA Group Achievement Awards, as well as awards from General Dynamics, NGC, Boeing, and Motorola. He was one of three authors and the Lead Instructor for AIAA Space Power System Design Course, and he served on the National Research Council Thermionic Direct Energy Conversion Study, and the AIAA Mil STD 16400 Rewrite Committee.

Dr. Eric Strong, Vice President, AI Systems

Dr. Eric Strong is leading AURA’s efforts in the field of applied AI research. His past work includes the development of machine learning algorithms for condition-based maintenance in multiple industries including nuclear plants, naval vessels, aircraft, and industrial plants.

Throughout his career, he has led teams in the development of multiple successful AI products, including predictive maintenance. Dr. Strong served as a technical lead for prognostics at the DEI Group, and as a senior data scientist at his former company, Honeywell Aerospace. 

Dr. Alex Blate, Chief Innovator

Dr. Alex Blate has over 20 years of experience in Software, Hardware, and Embedded Systems. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the area of low-latency tracking and displays for optical see-through augmented reality. His academic research included significant work characterizing and integrating with a variety of optical and inertial sensors.

Prior to UNC, he was Senior Software Architect at CA Technologies (now part of Broadcom) and was responsible for the architecture and design of a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform. Prior to CA, he worked on Tier-1 VoIP and Mobile Applications platforms in the capacity of Systems Engineering, software performance, and scalability.

Karen Naylor, Senior Director of Operations

Karen Naylor, Senior Director of Operations for AURA, oversees operations, human resources, contracting, and vendor management. With over 20 years of operations and marketing experience, Ms. Naylor has held positions of increasing responsibility at numerous pharma companies, most recently GlaxoSmithKline. She has extensive experience in the areas of regulatory product and promotional filings, content creation and management, commercial training, budget management, and digital marketing roles. Her skillsets range from process and procedural development, to change management with a focus on the execution and embedment of new information and policies, to coaching and mentoring employees and peers to do their best work.