Meet the team behind Volansi’s flying robots. Each week we share stories from the team at Volansi highlighting their journey to joining the team, how they help keep our drones taking off, and some quirky fun along the way.
Title at Volansi: Senior Integration Engineer
Joined the team: 2020
Team member #107
Tell us a little bit about your background and the work you did before joining the Volansi team?
I have a BS in Engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, which is renowned for its Applied Engineering Curriculum, i.e., learn by doing. Before Volansi, I spent over 30 years becoming a world-class hang-gliding pilot (in part by managing to survive), eventually winning the World Championships in 1995 in the Pyrenees, near Àger, Spain.
My first experience working with drones started with MLB, an early drone company that invented the V-BAT, integrating electronics and mechanical systems into the Superbat, BAT-4 and V-BAT drones. I was also involved in a great deal of field testing.
Eventually MLB was purchased by Martin UAV. The development of the V-BAT, a VTOL tail-sitter design, was the catalyst for this acquisition. At Martin UAV, I was responsible for the integration of all the electronics and autopilots in the V-BAT prototypes, which also involved extensive field testing.
In your own words, what do you do at Volansi?
I work with the M20 team supporting systems integration and flight testing of prototype aircraft.
My expertise is in failure analysis, systems integration in the field and assisting with finding immediate solutions to problems that pop up. This includes risk assessment as it relates to weather, field terrain and mission objectives for any given day.
What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?
The first flights of the M20 fixed-wing demonstrator was my favorite past project. It involved a lot of scrappy engineering from everyone involved. The initial risk of failure was great, but because of the field team’s tenacity, we beat the odds and succeeded. This led to the first successful transition flights of M20-003.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy flying my paraglider at the coast, hang gliding on occasion and experimenting with the electric-powered version of the Swift hang glider, the world’s most high-performing foot-launchable aircraft. I was an original test pilot of the Swift (and Electric Swift) sailplane.
I also like working on my house, 1929 Model A Ford and 1958 Willys Jeep. I also collect and repair antique machinery, including old tube radios.
Who are your heroes in aviation, drone, or logistics history? Why?
Alberto Santos-Dumont was an aircraft designer from the turn of the century. He flew powered dirigibles of his own design around Paris and was first to fly an airplane in Europe. He also designed the Demoiselle, an early ultralight aircraft that could be transportable via his “automobile,” in 1907.
We are in the dawn of unmanned flight and autonomous mobility. What are the applications that excite you most?
The new aircraft currently in development here at Volansi have led me to be the most excited I have been about any drone since I worked on the V-BAT.