Robert W.B. Kits van Heyningen, co-founder of KVH Industries, died Dec. 14 in Boston. He was 62.
Kits van Heyningen was born in Montreal on April 4, 1957, and grew up in Newport, R.I. He returned to Montreal to study at McGill University, where he earned a degree in physics, with a minor in computer science.
In 1982, Kits van Heyningen co-founded Sailcomp Industries with his father, Arent, and his brother Martin. Sailcomp became KVH Industries in 1986. Kits van Heyningen served as a board member and senior vice president of R&D until 2016.
Kits van Heyningen was the inventor of the world’s first digital compass. Over the years, he served as the lead software architect and designer for KVH’s tactical navigation systems used on more than 20,000 military vehicles.
An avid sailor, Kits van Heyningen competed in many regattas and sailed in the Newport-Bermuda Race a dozen times. He worked on the electronics for several America’s Cup campaigns, starting with the French challenge in 1980. He was also devoted to the martial arts and held a black belt in Aikido.
He also served as a Boy Scout leader, an adjunct professor at University of Rhode Island and a mentor to junior engineers at KVH.
Kits van Heyningen is survived by his wife of 18 years, Debra Kits van Heyningen; his brother, Martin Kits van Heyningen; sons Arent-Peter Kits van Heyningen and Willem Kits van Heyningen; and stepsons, Michael Faria, Matthew Faria and Mitchell Faria.