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.

Lisa Smith

Title at Volansi: Bend Office Manager and Recruiting Coordinator

Joined the team: 2021

Team member #156

Hometown: Bend, Oregon

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

I earned my BS in Graphic Design from Portland State University, and worked as an art director for various advertising agencies before starting my own design studio in 2000, where I worked with clients in education, endurance sports and small-batch foods. My most recent gig was art director for UltraRunning magazine.

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

I am the office manager for the Bend office, supporting the employees with meeting set up, supplies, snacks and new hire orientations. I also am a recruiting coordinator and facilitate interviews between candidates and hiring managers.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

I was proud to be a small part of supporting the teams at our recent military demonstrations by coordinating supplies, food and lodging.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love summers in Central Oregon. You can often find me running on the Deschutes River trails, hiking at Smith Rock or kayaking one of the many Cascade lakes. I am also an avid knitter and master-level GIF sender.

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

Bessie Coleman! She was the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold a pilot license. She earned her license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921, and was the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license.

Coleman developed an early interest in flying, but African Americans, Native Americans and women had no flight training opportunities in the United States, so she saved and obtained sponsorships to go to France for flight school.

She then became a high-profile pilot in notoriously dangerous air shows in the United States. The fact that she was able to accomplish all that she did during the early twentieth century is so inspiring.

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

I am proud to work for a company that is supporting humanitarian aid and medical supply logistics. I think that’s going to be a game changer in getting aid to those who need it.

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.

Alex Sjodahl

Title at Volansi: Lead Systems Architect Engineer

Joined the team: 2018

Team member #25

Hometown: Gothenburg, Sweden

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

I moved from Sweden to the US six years ago with my wife and dog due to a career opportunity. I have a degree in Computer Science and prior to joining Volansi I worked as a Network Engineer at various IT companies.

Drones and UAVs have been a passion for me the last decade or more and have taken me around the world competing in drone racing events and also given me a wide knowledge of fixed-wing and multi-rotor UAVs.

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

I am a Systems Architect but I also spend time Experimental Flight Testing our biggest platforms. I also perform a lot of hardware integration, such as sensors and communication systems. My work and responsibilities are very diverse and gives me the freedom to lead projects and develop and test systems that may be integrated into production aircraft.

I really enjoy what I do and I’m genuinely excited to go to work everyday.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

I would say the 20 Series project as a whole since I have been with it since it started and many of my ideas have been integrated on the platform. There have also been many fun side projects to the 20 Series that I have enjoyed working on from the beginning.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Most of my free time is spent with my wife and dog, but I also very much enjoy tinkering with personal drone projects and FPV-flying.

Both me and my wife work in startups where the tempo is high so we try to enjoy our weekends to the fullest with hikes and weekend trips.

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

Alex “Ibcrazy” Grieves is a person not well known outside the FPV community but in the community he has been a pioneer that has revolutionized the way antennas are designed for transmitting and receiving both analog and digital video for drone use.

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

Surveillance, search and rescue and disaster relief are what excite me along with Disaster relief where our products could potentially be used to save life’s in the future.

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.

Cody Green

Title at Volansi: Senior Flight Operator and Deputy Training Manager

Joined the team: 2019

Team member #45

Hometown: Houston, Texas

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

I flew drones for the Army from 2009-2013. During my time in the service, I accomplished everything that I wanted to: made Sergeant, was the Unit Trainer and was selected to go to IO School but had already made my mind up to separate so that didn’t happen.

After I got out I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself and just pursued academia. I got my Associate in General Education in 2015 and wound up at Embry-Riddle Prescott in 2017 for the drone program there. I did pretty well, I graduated as the outstanding graduate for my class and supported the Student Veterans Organization there. 

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

As a Senior Flight Operator and Deputy Training Manager I am responsible for developing and maintaining the training programs here at Volansi as well developing and maintaining flight operations in the locations clients want to utilize our platform.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

My favorite project so far has been operations in Africa. Talk about a roller coaster adventure! From the deepest deep to the highest peak, I’ve been all over that part of the world. Anything and everything happened over there.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I read and learn. I’ve been in a phase for the past couple years reading professional development/self help books to help get me where I want to be in life. This coming Fall semester I’m starting an MBA program at West Texas A&M. 

For more fun activities I spend time with and hike with my significant other and dog. Getting a dog has been one of the best decisions of my life.

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

Steve Morris and Brian Porter. I admire Steve’s drone intellect and his past accomplishments with the VBAT and other aerial vehicles. I think I’m pretty lucky to have worked with him on the M20 project. Then there’s Brian. If Hollywood needs to cast a cool old dude, Brian’s the guy. Both Steve and Brian are lifelong friends that have had their own adventures in the industry. Their relationship is something I aspire to have with one of my coworkers here at Volansi that I met back at Riddle.

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

Emergency relief. I don’t think there is an application that I could get more gratification out of then helping save lives post-disaster with drone tech.

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.

Amanda Krantz

Title at Volansi: Senior Director of Account Management

Joined the team: 2021

Team member #138

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

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

I have a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy, an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. During my six years as an Air Force Officer, I worked at NASA as an Engineering Acquisition Officer at Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space (on Airborne Laser and International Space Station), and coached NCAA Division I tennis at the U.S. Air Force Academy. After business school, I have held a variety of entrepreneurial roles at Fortune 500 companies like AOL (product manager for AOL Mail), Yahoo and AT&T and was the first business hire at mobile photo-sharing startup, radar.net (acquired by Shutterfly), negotiating all of their deals with handset manufacturers and telcos – think Instagram six years too early. Most recently, I was founder and CEO of DohJe, a gratitude platform that makes it easy for patients to thank their nurses and other healthcare heroes. Besides being CEO, I led sales and account management for all of our customers including UCSF, Kaiser and Huggies.

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

I head up our Account Management/Customer Success/Program Management team for both our DoD and commercial customers in the U.S. and around the world. Our team not only manages all of our customer-facing relationships, but we also work cross functionally between Flight Operations, Engineering and Business Development/Sales to make sure the entire company is aligned to deliver value to our customers. My job is to be the voice of the customer internally. While the Sales team focuses on hitting quarterly numbers, Customer Success is focused on retention and customer lifetime value.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

This is tough to answer because since joining the Volansi team a few months ago, I have already been involved in several really fun projects. One particularly fun project was working with our flight operators in Africa and an engineer in Bend to turn around a quick solution to carrying spare parts that did not fit in the current cargo box. I love listening to our customers’ needs and problem solving with the team to find a solution and deliver it quickly.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

What spare time? Seriously, between family, work and a puppy, I don’t have a whole lot of spare time. When I do, I like to go for long hikes that eventually get to killer views. Sometimes I play pickleball, which I used to make fun of but now really enjoy. In a former life I used to play drums in a rock band.

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

My heroes in aviation are all the military pilots that risk their lives to keep the rest of us safe. I think it’s super cool that my classmates at the Air Force Academy were some of the first female fighter pilots. People like Missy May, who paved the way for women in fighter squadrons by being amazing pilots and super awesome humans.

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

There are a ton of exciting applications for autonomous mobility, but I think I’m most excited right now about two things: 1) Flying our VOLY 10 Series to help the Northern Plains UAS Test Site build Vantis, North Dakota’s statewide unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) network, the first of its kind in the nation. This BVLOS network will unlock all kinds of of valuable use cases for drone delivery in the U.S. 2) Humanitarian Aid – from  delivering blood or vaccines to remote, rural villages in Alaska or Africa to the ability for drones to deliver critical supplies after a hurricane in the Outer Banks of North Carolina or a Tsunami in Indonesia.

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.

Chuck Roberts

Title at Volansi: Senior UAV Mechanic

Joined the team: 2021

Team member #112

Hometown: Sisters, Oregon

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

I’m a veteran of the US Air Force where I held the position of Aircraft Structural Specialist with 3EMS in Alaska and 509th MXS in Missouri. I worked on the F-15 and the B-2 platforms repairing sheet metal, composite and Radar Absorbing Material (RAM). After departing the Air Force, I was a DoD contractor at Elemendorf Air Force Base in Alaska performing full-paints on F-15s and supporting multiple squadrons. While in Alaska, I obtained my Private Pilot license and Instrument Rating and ultimately moved to Oregon to pursue my Commercial License. During my time here, I’ve earned my BS in Graphic Design, started a family and held a position at Insitu for nearly nine years; initially in Ground Control Station production and then as an Engineering Technician in the software department. I departed Insitu in 2017 to be closer to my fiance in Bend, Oregon and have held many titles since then. I took the title of Senior UAV Mechanic here at Volansi in May and am glad to be here with many talented individuals from the aviation/drone industry.

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

I help facilitate the gap between maintenance issues in the field and produce maintenance actions to improve reliability of our system. I am responsible for identifying all aircraft maintenance for the programs and establishing baselines for future maintenance schedules.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy spending time with my family and being outdoors. Combining both is what I live for.

Who are your heroes in aviation, drone, or logistics history? Why?
Chuck Yeager, who was a US Air Force test pilot and completed many “firsts” and survived; 

Nikola Tesla, inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system and his work on wireless communications.

Taiichi Ohno, who is considered to be the father of the Toyota Production System, which inspired Lean Manufacturing in the U.S. Ohno’s methodology has impacted how I approach my work on a daily basis to improve efficiencies in the workplace.

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

The area that impresses me the most about autonomy and unmanned flight is communication links and how we communicate with assets. Work being done with MIMO and MN-MIMO, COFDM and MANET communications is very exciting! During my time at Insitu, I saw first hand how improved communications was a game-changer in the field. When I started, we used directional antennas and now there are mesh networks that can ensure full comms wherever you have assets. Such a huge improvement from 2008!

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.

Zach Cruzen

Title at Volansi: Facility Security Officer

Joined the team: 2021

Team member #167

Hometown: San Diego, California

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

I’ve been in the security world for a while now covering all sorts of security roles from directly supporting government customers at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems HQ (SPAWAR), to standing up and managing multiple cleared sites across the country for industry partners as their Corporate Security Officer. I’ve also worked overseas as a Foreign Disclosure Officer and, overall, have been placed in unique professional opportunities that have allowed me to gain a wide range of security expertise.

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

I am filling a dual-focus slot currently. First, as the security POC for Volansi, I am here to support our internal team in standing up our security policies, procedures and best practices and to automate as much of our security procedures as possible. Security gets a bad name for being the wall and I want to work to get to a yes for our security needs. My role as the Facility Security Officer is to facilitate our ability to work with government customers making sure we support and adhere to government regulations and verify we are in compliance with all of the fun details that come with Department of Defense contracting.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

I am relatively new here, but I can point to a personal project that’s in the works. We are currently in the process of standing up an internal security page on Confluence where all employees can reference security processes. This page will house our policies, procedures and helpful walkthroughs to streamline and automate the mundane security tasks like visit requests or foreign travel reporting.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

How do you know when someone does crossfit… don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about my lifts. I haven’t found a gym up here yet, but I’ll be that guy soon enough. I was previously really into surfing and built a shop in my garage to make my own surfboards. Now that I’ve moved up to Bend, I’m excited to trade in my surfboard for a snowboard. I’ve got a little family that takes most of my focus outside of work and I’m perfectly happy about it.

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

Military support to the boots-on-the-ground is the number one thing I am excited to see Volansi achieve. Being able to deliver beans and bullets to our forces in remote locations could mean the difference in our ability to win battles, not to mention the morale improvement of those troops who can now receive packages and mail from home when sending a manned vehicle is too high a risk.

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.

Peggy Pan

Title at Volansi: Recruitment Coordinator

Joined the team: 2021

Team member #128

Hometown: Vestal, New York


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

I graduated from Binghamton University with a degree in Human Development and did a service year with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) – Pacific Region. During my service year, I had the opportunity to help underserved communities across the country as well as directly support recruiting efforts for the program. Following my service year, I worked as a medical scribe and briefly at an AV startup as a recruiting coordinator before landing at Volansi.

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

I am a recruiting coordinator here at Volansi. I work closely with our recruiters to coordinate all interviews and ensure an excellent candidate experience. I am also the office manager for the Concord and eventually Hayward offices.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

I work closely with our recruiters to coordinate all interviews and ensure an excellent candidate experience. I am also the office manager for the Concord office

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love outdoor activities, especially hiking, biking and swimming. I also like to play basketball and tennis.

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

My aviation hero is Amelia Earhart because she really pushed the boundaries of aviation and broke a lot of barriers.

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

I am most excited about being able to bring physical goods to locations that would otherwise not have access to them.

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.

Jacob Crabill

Title at Volansi: Chief Engineer of SARA

Joined the team: 2018

Team member #13

Hometown: Swartz Creek, Michigan


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

I earned dual bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Physics at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. Kettering is a co-op based school, and I did all of my rotations at Pratt & Whitney AutoAir, doing a mix of CAD design and manufacturing engineering. I was also heavily involved in the SAE Aero Design team, where you design, build and then fly a complete RC aircraft for what is basically a weightlifting competition. I then went on to earn my masters and doctoral degrees at Stanford University in the Aeronautics and Astronautics department, where I performed research into high-order numerical methods for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) with a focus on methods for moving-grid simulations on GPUs (the signature simulation for my dissertation was a spinning golf ball – harder than it sounds!). As I neared graduation I was starting to look for jobs in the field of scientific computing, but Manuel Lopez (employee No. 1) was one of my labmates and he convinced me to come work for him at Volansi.

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

This has changed a lot over the years! I started out doing aerodynamic design and performance analysis and eventually became the sole developer of our autopilot software. That eventually led to my current role of leading the Embedded Systems Team. My team covers not just the autopilot, but many of the peripheral devices that interface with it, along with all of our communications systems. More recently I was also given the role of Chief Engineer of the SARA platform, which involves taking a broader look across all of the SARA teams and ensuring that our technical approaches remain aligned with meeting our near- and long-term goals.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

This is a tough one. I guess I’d say my current “pet project,” which is still very much in progress, involves working with the global PX4 development community to make PX4 more modular, developer-friendly and extensible through the use of PX4-based CAN nodes and the UAVCAN protocol. It’s a little abstract, but my concrete goal is to enable live system health monitoring of all actuators (servos and ESCs) via CAN nodes – as in full feedback of RPM, torque, current, voltage, etc.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m a cyclist/mountain biker and I love doing all-day rides into the wilderness from my front door – sometimes even multi-day bikepacking trips! I love just being outdoors in general, and particularly in the mountains.

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

I’d say my two biggest heros are Kelly Johnson and Burt Rutan. Kelly Johnson was the first leader of Lockheed’s Skunk Works (HIGHLY recommend reading Ben Rich’s book, Skunk Works!) and just an amazing aeronautical engineer. Burt Rutan is another aircraft designer, known for his really off-the-wall designs – look up the Voyager, Proteus or Boomerang aircraft.

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

I think one of the coolest possible applications that’s not too different from what Volansi is tackling is wilderness search-and-rescue. Imagine scanning a remote forest to find a lost hiker and either dropping medical supplies or lifting them out, all autonomously – we could get there!

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.

Jeff Gerry

Title at Volansi: Senior Flight Test Engineer

Joined the team: 2020

Team member #110

Hometown: Old Town, Maine


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

I come fresh from INTEL Corporation where I was a Drone Technical Engineer. I had the opportunity to fly over 500 light show drones at one time at various venues, including the Air Force Academy and Universal Studios “Harry Potter Experience”. Currently, I am nominated for an EMMY Award for my work with the Junior Olympics in Switzerland where I got to fly, map and create an Augmented Reality application for spectators so they could see what the competitors see. I’ve held multiple roles previously, including Senior Support Engineer at a manufacturer of large-format digital printers and Radio Engineer at Clear Channel Communications (now known as iHeart Radio). I am also a 10-year United States Marine CH-46e Helicopter Crew Chief and served in Desert Storm/Desert Shield, Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Liberia, and many other places.

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

As a Senior Flight Test Engineer, I provide the flight operations team insight, solutions and a sounding board for ideas and improvements. I bring engineering experience to the field where they have a readily available resource to make changes and complete their missions.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

M20. This is the best team I’ve ever worked with. There is a certain “ownership” I’ve taken with the M20 Flight Team as a facilitator that I have really enjoyed.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy creating with LEGO. I have so many drones I don’t know what to do with them all and I’m still trying to sort out my “Cornucopia” which is my storage unit (those who know, know).

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

I’ve flown with my heroes. I have been lucky to be with some of the best pilots, military and civilian alike. I would also say that the first flight I had with my uncle at age 7 sparked my interest in aviation.

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

The concept of “send it, and forget it.” That is the coolest! When you know that the aircraft, vehicle, device, robot, or whatever, is going to follow the plan and complete the task, mission, delivery, that is a game changer!

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.

Raleigh Hoban

Title at Volansi: Senior Director of Sales Operations Enablement

Joined the team: 2021

Team member #137

Hometown: Danville, California

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

I’ve been in sales operations for a very long time, mostly with startups. I find the startup environment interesting and fun because building something from the ground up is very satisfying, and if we are successful then everyone benefits. When you work in a startup environment, everything you do has an impact. It’s evident that your contributions helped the end result. For my third job out of college, I was tired of commuting to the city and was hired by a local startup as employee No. 96. There were weeks where we weren’t going to make payroll and we didn’t have a clear path for sales, but we figured it out and merged with another startup, which took off like a rocket. I was training 40-to-50 sales reps a quarter and we turned into a $1.2 billion company. That was a fun ride!

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

I manage Sales Operations, so I work on streamlining the sales process, forecast and sales reporting process. I also provide support to sales efforts. In short, I help the sales team in any way I can.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

My favorite project is making Salesforce our system of record. I want it to be so data-clean that we can push a button and have any type of accurate sales information that is needed. My favorite thing about Volansi as a whole is the company culture. I like how everyone is so friendly and willing to help one another in any way necessary. Working remotely, one would think it would be lonely, but not at Volansi. The amount of collaboration that goes on is quite unusual.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am very close to my family (five siblings). I mostly hang out with them and my children on the weekends. During COVID, we got hooked on a card game called 5 Crowns and our games tend to become very competitive. I also enjoy reading a good “pink book” (the equivalent of a rom com movie) poolside and barbecuing during the summer. I also like to take long walks to try and stay in shape.

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

My aviation hero is Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who piloted US Airways Flight 1549. I remember watching the Today Show that morning in January 2009 and seeing the plane successfully land in the Hudson River. It was so incredible that no one died or was injured and I remember thinking how lucky the passengers were to have had such a skilled pilot like Sully. He happened to live in a neighborhood near me and many times after the crash, I would see him walking in the evening with his wife. We would say “hello” and he was very kind and humble.

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

What fascinates me the most about this industry is the innovation that is required, and all the smart people it attracts because I can learn from them and they get you to think about things differently. At Volansi, we are in the forefront of something new and have a lot of really smart people to work with and learn from, which is so exciting.