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.

Johnathan Leppert

Title at Volansi: Director of Software Engineering

Joined the team: 2019

Team member #35

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Tell us a little bit about your background and the work you did before joining the Volansi team?

I’ve been working in software for more than 15 years. I specialize in early-stage startups, taking ideas from the concept stage through to production systems, along the way building out high-performing software teams. I have worked on large-scale business and consumer data-driven applications, working everywhere from single-person startups to large enterprises. Over the past five years, I’ve worked in the drone industry at companies such as Airware, Kespry, and Fimratek primarily building analytical mapping applications for the mining, construction, and insurance industries. Now I am at Volansi working on bringing drone-based delivery and logistics accessible to a wider audience. I am passionate about the applications of drone technology and making complex technology easy and safe to use for end-users.

Starting in my early teen years, I began building and flying model fixed-wing and rotor aircraft, mostly R/C helicopters. I was known around the neighborhood as the crazy kid with the gas-powered helicopter. Years later, after I moved to the Bay area, I eventually would get a chance to continue my passion with the birth of the modern drone industry. I built my first multirotor aircraft in 2010 and immediately knew this is what I wanted to be doing with my time. Watching something you have built with your own hands and programmed or designed take flight is exhilarating. I have been fortunate to work on and be involved in several large-scale drone projects, and I have seen firsthand the transformational impact this technology can have on industry. I am able to combine my extensive software background and experience with R/C aircraft — it turns out quite a bit of software is involved in making these systems work.

In your own words, what do you do at Volansi?

At Volansi, I am responsible for the overall software team. This includes the management and growth of the team as well as the roadmap for the development and implementation of software within the company. I also work hands-on with many of the technical projects and still love to get my “hands dirty” with development. I really enjoy mentoring new engineers and watching them develop as they get better at their craft, then look at it in awe with what was developed as a team.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

My favorite project has by far been the design and building of a hexacopter we used to test software. It was something I hadn’t done before and we successfully used it as an aid for software development and as a test and demonstrator aircraft. It was fun to actually build something physical, while at the same time build software that would run on it. Seeing the whole thing come together at the end and fly was a lot of fun.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I enjoy taking my dog, Artu to the dog park. I also love to explore the bay area and I’m into art, especially street art and murals. I still build and own more model aircraft than I care to admit, my latest side projects are building and flying fully 3D printed airframes.

Who are your heroes in aviation, drone, or logistics history?

Growing up in Ohio, of course, the Wright Brothers. I visited the Wright-Patterson Airforce Museum (the world’s largest aviation museum) many times as a child that served to be the catalyst that got me into building my own aircraft.

We are in the dawn of unmanned flight and autonomous mobility. What are the applications that excite you most?

I think that not too long from now, certainly within my lifetime, sending physical goods will be as easy and accessible as sending an email. In the way that the Internet and email transformed communications, accessible, easy to use and safe drones of all sizes will similarly transform aviation and many other industries. We are still building the foundational drone infrastructure and technology today like the original Internet networks were being built in the ’80s and ’90s that led to all the modern technology we now take for granted.