Zagi co-owner, Jacob Marble, is a software engineer who grew up playing in the dirt in his mother’s garden with his younger brothers. He hails from Southern California, Reno, Nevada, and northern Utah and now Sandpoint, Idaho. From a young age, he fixed his own bike and started to tinker with things. He learned the value of working for a family business with his dad, a professional handyman, who encouraged his children to build things.
“(I) worked for my dad to earn money … going to work with him is one of my strongest memories. Most Christmases yielded one or two new tools for my own toolbox, and I still have many of those,” Jacob said.
He was in junior high when the Internet was born and quickly became the “de facto computer nerd leader” when it came to rigging up game systems for multiple players. In the seventh grade, he won an award for “Excellence in Computers” when he used the school’s first Internet-connected computer. He won the school’s award again after he set up a computer to act as a server in the computer lab so more of his friends could play, “Rise of the Triad.”
“In school, I was quiet and nerdy. I liked to play with computers (and) try to break them and fix them,” he said.
In spite of his interest in machines, Jacob didn’t own RC-controlled planes until after he finished high school.
“As a kid, I really liked the idea of radio-controlled airplanes but never had a chance to do anything about it. I used to imagine a tiny hangar on the roof of my house with an automatic door and a radio-controlled helicopter inside,” he said.
After high school, Jacob joined the Army and served in Afghanistan as an interrogator. It was there where he was introduced to RC helicopters. He purchased an E-Sky Lama V2, which didn’t survive his multiple crash landings as he learned to control it.
While in the Army, Jacob attended the University of Utah and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Computer Science with three minors: Spanish, Chinese and Math. Senior year, he learned about the school’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) laboratory, which piqued his interest in RC vehicles.
“They hired me, and although the pay was next to nothing … I got some great team work experience. There were undergrad and graduate students in Electrical Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Computer Science. Together, we worked on several projects centered on collecting infrared images of agricultural and natural water features, which were used to conserve water resources,” Jacob said. He and his colleagues also took first place in the Student Unmanned Aerial Systems competition, hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
In the lab, they developed and produced flying wings. There, he developed an interest that has never left him and gave him a deeper appreciation for airplanes. He also interned at DJI Innovations, a drone manufacturer in China. After being involved with flying wings and quad copters, the efficiency of airplanes is what lead him to acquire Zagi.
“Airplanes are more efficient than a quads or a helicopters; that will never change. A Zagi-style flying wing is such a simple, perfect system that it gives me chills!” he said.
Earlier this year, while attending the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Expo, he listened to Al Bowers, a senior aerodynamicist for NASA, speak about the Horten brothers and wing tip vortices. The Horten Brothers were Walter and Reimar Horten, two German aircraft pilots who are most known for their advanced aircraft design. The Hortens’ designs are similar in appearance to the Zagi flying wing. Jacob went home from the AMA Expo and hit the books, eager to learn more about this elegant approach to flying.
Not long after the AMA Expo, he received an email from Jerry Teisan announcing his retirement from Zagi. Jacob called his cousin, Josh the same day, knowing they shared an interest in aviation.
And the rest is not history but rather the future of Zagi. Jacob is focused on maintaining the business and website while Josh is heading the manufacturing end of Zagi. Eventually, they’d like to incorporate a Horten wing to the Zagi repertoire, among other designs. For now though, it’s important for them to take care of Zagi’s existing designs and customers.
“Since (acquiring Zagi), I haven’t had a minute to think about Horten or even about aerodynamics. I dropped the aerodynamics books and picked up, “Small Business for Dummies,” he said. However, ideas for new designs continue to percolate in the back of his mind and he’ll work out the kinks at night. The original Zagi wings won’t be going away because of their classic and time-tested designs. “Zagi’s strength is in flying wings, and” we’ll continue to grow within that niche!”