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.

Andrew Strickler

Title at Volansi: Flight Test Engineer

Joined the team: 2019

Employee: No. 37

Hometown: Tempe, AZ

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

Ever since middle school/high school I’ve been drawn to autonomous robots and had an interest in putting parts together and watching them come to life. It really sparked when I became the lead programmer for my high school’s FTC Robotics team, competing all over Arizona and California. I began learning about UAVs in my senior year of high school as my science fair project was about implementing UAVs to help monitor wildfires in Northern Arizona, which lead me onto a path into the UAV program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Prescott, AZ). I graduate from Embry-Riddle with a BS in Unmanned Aircraft Systems – Technical Operations and a Minor in Cyber Intelligence and Security. During my time at college, I worked at an auction house and was a gymnastics coach along with other various jobs to help make ends meet. Shortly after graduation, I landed a Flight Operator position at Volansi with my best friend from college where we hope to continue our adventures together throughout our careers in the aviation industry. 

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

As a Flight Test Engineer, I work closely with the software/integration team, improving aircraft functionality and also work with the aerodynamics team by testing aircraft performance. I am responsible for preparing aircraft for specific flight testing campaigns, then going out to the flight field to conduct tests and finally analyzing the initial results. The best part about my position is that it is very agile and hands-on. I get to collaborate in most of the projects while always being challenged to think outside of the box and finding creative solutions to meet the final objective(s). 

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

I’ve been and continue to be part of great adventures and projects here at Volansi ranging from demos all over the United States to Africa and research and development flight testing campaigns from the C10 to the M20 along with other demonstration aircraft. My favorite project hands-down would have to be the demos in the Bahamas. Not only did I get to go to the Bahamas for the first time, but it was on my third day here at Volansi. Nothing may ever beat getting to go to a beautiful island on your first week at work. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

You can find me mostly outside alongside my girlfriend and doggo hiking new trails or driving down random roads exploring new places, people and cultures. Other fun activities include shooting indoor/outdoor competitive archery, building and flying first-person view (FPV), motorcycle rides, binge watching TV shows and setting off the fire alarm cooking dinner. 

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

Before joining Volansi, I would have said Abraham Karem, the “founding father of UAV technology.” However, after being hired, I would have to say Brian Porter, Volansi Senior Integration Engineer. Not only is he a World Champion hang-gliding pilot, but a never-ending storyteller and worldtraveler with a wealth of knowledge, sometimes stubborn, but always willing to listen, cat with nine lives, experiencebuilding, opportunityseeking, lifetested, overall wholesome human being. He is such an inspiration to look up to and learn from, what does not only apply in the aviation world, but also in how we live our lives. 

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

I am most excited about actually getting to see our autonomous UAVs working in harmony with each other and manned aviation to help out the population for the greater good. Applications from assisting first responders or military personnel in ISR missions to delivering lifesaving packages to those in need. 

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.

Sarah Kaye

Title at Volansi: Senior Systems Engineer

Joined the team: 2021

Hometown: Lake Stevens, WA

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

I graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. During my time at Poly, I spent two summers in Southern California interning. My first internship was at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory where I worked as a flight systems engineer on the Mars 2020 Rover. The focus of my internship was verification and validation planning based on leveraging work done on the Curiosity Rover. My second internship was at SpaceX where I worked as a vehicle engineer on the second stage of Falcon 9. I supported the Falcon 9 Block 5 upgrade, which included redesigning test equipment for the new configuration, final vehicle integration and issue dispositions.

When I graduated, I started Blue Origin’s New Graduate Rotation Program. I spent a year rotating around the company focusing on design, analysis and test. For my first rotation, I worked as a Systems Engineer on the Advanced Development Program’s lunar lander program, Blue Moon. Then for my third rotation, I worked as a structural analyst on the New Glenn second stage tanks team. Finally, for my third rotation, I led a risk reduction test campaign for New Glenn’s In-Space Propulsion team. Upon completing the program, I permanently joined the Blue Moon team as a System Engineer.

During my time on Blue Moon, we completed several NASA design maturation contracts. This included the Human Landing System competition which Blue Origin was the prime for. Blue offered a three element architecture with our National Team partners Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper Labs. During this time, I was the lunar lander Requirements, Verification, Validation and Certification Lead.

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

At Volansi, I am standing up Systems Engineering. I am creating the foundational blocks necessary to take our products through the product lifecycle. Some key elements include system definition, requirements verification and validation, integration and test, and system safety. The objective is to create clear system boundaries, drive to consistent specifications, decrease ambiguity, manage complexity and connect key information together.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have two puppies that require A LOT of attention, so I am constantly at parks or rivers playing with them. In addition, I love mountain biking and rock climbing!

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

My heroes are actually my mentors. I have been so fortunate to learn from truly inspiring and brilliant people. Two that stand out include Lauren Lyons (Firefly COO) and Ben Cichy (Blue Origin SEIT Lead). Lauren taught me to trust myself, to bring out the best in people, and to push back on things that are non-value added. Ben is the definition of a “systems thinker”. He showed me how to look at things through so many different lenses and how to decompose a very complex system.

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

I am excited about the commercial application of autonomous mobility. It is incredible that we can get to hard-to-reach locations and help communities in a new way! This has the potential to be life-changing for some people and I am proud to be a part of that.

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.

George Noll

Title at Volansi: Director of Government Flight Programs

Joined the team: 2021

Hometown: Salisbury, Maryland

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

I have had the pleasure of serving in the UAS community for the last 22 years. From my time on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, to times serving the men and women in uniform as a contractor around the globe. I have filled roles from maintenance to program manager and everything in between. It has given me the opportunity to truly grow up in the UAS community and now share my knowledge with the next generation of UAS professionals. From an educational standpoint, the years of constant deployment made me put that on the back burner and I am now finishing my Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Arizona, with a major in Law and minor in Psychology. 

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

As the Director of Government Flight Programs, my job is a catchall, in many ways, to ensure that we have the right people with the right equipment in the right place to get the job done for our government customers. I have a lot of great support around me, and it makes my job that much easier. The amazing thing about where we are now is one day, I could be turning a wrench on a platform in the field and the next day leading a high-profile demo for the government. We are definitely a process in motion, and it has been nothing short of awesome! 

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

I really enjoyed our Key West demo for the Navy and Coast Guard. There were a ton of moving parts, people and processes to make the demo happen and it went amazing. The team did an outstanding job making the flights possible and I had a blast working in the background getting the logistical side of it done and meeting with the customer. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

We enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, “glamping” in our camper van and being beach bums. I am also a huge sports fan and enjoy attending live sporting events as much as possible. GO BUCKEYES!!! 

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

As a recruit in boot camp, a lot of knowledge was drilled into our heads every day, including who the “Father of Marine Corps Aviation was, LtCol Alfred A. Cunningham. I did not think about this much until fate sent me down the aviation path with my Military Occupational Specialties (MOS), which were UAV Operator, UAV External Pilot and Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor. As I look back on my career, I realize that if LtCol Cunningham hadn’t taken that assignment on May 22, 1912, Marine Corps aviation may have been completely different, and my career may have taken another path entirely. 

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

I have seen UAS operations go from being ostracized by those that did not understand its capabilities to a key component for success in many applications. In many ways, the UAS community has grown leaps and bounds in less than 20 years. I am very excited for the next step of logistics and resupply for both the military and commercial applications and how we can help to make that happen. 

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.

Kara Kramer

Title at Volansi: Director – Federal, Volansi Global Services

Joined the team: 2021

Hometown: Herndon, VA

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

I attended George Mason University, where I received both a B.A in English Literature and a M.A. in Political Science. My career spans to supporting the F/A-18 Program Office (PMA-265) for Acquisitions to providing consulting services on the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) process – so you can say that I’m well accustomed to the processes of the Department of Defense! I’ve done business development for large businesses with over $6B in annual revenue, for mid-size businesses with about 400 employees and for pre-Series A startups with less than 15 employees. 

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

At Volansi, my focus is on expanding and generating our market reach with the federal government and generating revenue for the company. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I like to ride horses, which is something I did a lot while growing up and in college but have recently rediscovered when my daughters both wanted to learn. We all ride together every weekend! 

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

Some of my heroes from logistics history are the 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs involved in the 1925 serum run to Nome, Alaska. They traveled through treacherous terrain to deliver Diphtheria antitoxin and save the lives of hundreds of people. In that case, the sled dogs were the fastest and safest way to get critical medical supplies to a remote community, and one of the many reasons I’m proud to be part of Volansi is that we are using drones to solve this same challenge now. 

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

This is an incredibly fun time to be in this field, and the technology is moving so quickly. The applications that excite me the most are the ones that support the warfighter and make the mission easier, safer, or more effective. The concept of continuous resupply is especially exciting because the vision of our VTOL platform providing critical supplies at the time and place of need could make a real difference. 

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.

Brian Porter

Title at Volansi: Senior Integration Engineer

Joined the team: 2020

Team member #107

Hometown: Brisbane

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.

Brian stands with the V-BAT, a drone he helped develop for Martin UAV. Image Credit: Brian Porter

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. 

Brian launches an Aériane Swift off of Monte Cucco, Italy in 2008. Image Credit: Brian Porter

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.

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.

Matthew Condie

Title at Volansi: Special Projects Manager, Flight Operations

Joined the team: 2018

Team Member No. 26

Hometown: Earth

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

Before joining Volansi, I had the opportunity to have a wide range of educational, professional and cultural experiences all around the world. I spent a few years in the United States Marine Corps as a long-range hiking and camping specialist. After the Marine Corps, I thought it would be a good idea to fly helicopters. During that time, I managed to get a commercial and instrument rating and a degree in aviation science. With some aviation experience under my hat, I started working in the offshore oil and gas industry as a subsea robotics pilot. Within a few years working at sea, I found myself back in school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, pursuing a degree in Unmanned Aircraft Systems. My eclectic collection of experiences in the air, on land at sea, in varying climates, and places have helped me immensely with my current role as the Flight Operations Special Projects Manager.

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

At Volansi, I make sure our aircraft are aircrafting by maintaining a personal mission-forward posture and a Cirque du Soleil level of flexibility. During my time here, I have fulfilled two primary roles: I have been a forward-deployed flight operator and a developmental external test pilot.

In the forward-deployed flight operator role, I am responsible for traveling to a remote delivery location ahead of our aircraft to ensure site viability and security. Once the aircraft lands and delivers its payload, I collect the payload and make sure the aircraft is good for the return flight to the launch location. I have had the opportunity to go to a lot of interesting places while working in this role.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?
I have been with Volansi for a few years now, and I have had the opportunity to work on many different projects. I have appreciated each project individually for all of their associated rewards, challenges and experiences. I have had a chance to explore several Caribbean islands and a few interesting places in Africa. We were recently able to fly the M20 off of a naval vessel in the Florida Keys. That was a great experience! I look forward to participating in many projects and adventures for Volansi in the future.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to spend most of my spare time hiking, working out and gardening. The garden my wife and I planted this year produced way more vegetables than we were expecting. We have been looking at greenhouse options to keep up our garden growing momentum during the winter. I think it would be neat to one day be able to grow the majority of our food. I have also been slowly but surely working toward getting fixed-wing aviation ratings. I would very much like to own an airplane. Whenever I need to test my willpower, I like to look at airplanes for sale and then come up with reasons why I can’t afford to buy one.

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

My absolute favorite aviator of all time is my wife. She is a newly minted Certified Flight Instructor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and she will be getting her first flight students in a few weeks. She has worked very hard to get to her current flight level, and she is still climbing. I am very proud of her, and I know she will be a great instructor.

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

I am most excited about having the opportunity to participate in the development of new technology. I look forward to achieving the same aviation milestones as the aviators that flew before us. In some respects, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) challenges are on par with the aviation industry 100 years ago. Our technology keeps getting better and better, and I think the most significant limiting factor in the advancement of UAS technology is the cautious progression of national airspace integration and adaptation. It’s going to be a big deal when a UAS can autonomously deliver commercial payloads from one end of a city to the other end of a city as a standard means of delivery. It’s going to be an even bigger deal when a UAS can autonomously deliver a payload from the west coast to the east coast of the United States. I believe that Volansi will be at the forefront of establishing many aviation and UAS milestones and I am happy that I can be a crucial team member in helping to achieve our collective goals.

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.

Raul De La Rosa

Title at Volansi: Director of Global Services

Joined the team: 2021

Hometown: Austin, Texas

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

I graduated from the University of Texas where I majored in Finance. I worked for FedEx for over 29 years and was in a leadership role for over 20 years. I spent most of my career managing the sales force in Latin America and the Caribbean. My team was responsible for the Fortune 500 accounts in the following Verticals: High tech/electronics, health care, automotive, E-commerce, agriculture and supply chain solutions. I also had several expatriate assignments where I had the opportunity to live in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. 

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

I am responsible for generating revenue and managing the top Fortune 200 commercial accounts in mining, oil and gas, health care, automotive and high tech in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I like to work on classic cars, ride horses, play cornhole and go to the movies with my family.

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

My hero’s, were the Wright Brothers because they did not give up and invented and flew  the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane.

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

I am most excited to see how far we can push the boundaries when it comes to the distance, speed, altitude and weight that a VTOL drone can carry.

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.

Pam Harris

Title at Volansi: Director of Global Services

Joined the team: 2021

Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

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

I joined the Volansi team after spending over 26 years at FedEx, first as a Senior Account Executive and then as a District Sales Manager. Eventually, I made my way up to Worldwide Account Manager!

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

My title is Director-Global Services. My job is to work with health care and logistics customers to build relationships and find opportunities to provide Volansi drones as a solution to persistent logistics issues.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love spending time with my husband, gardening, cooking and traveling. We have a big circle of friends here that we get together with on a regular basis. I also love to spend time with my two grandchildren, Roman and Ellie!

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

Amelia Earhart. She did what no one thought she could do and did it with such confidence. I also love reading the stories about her life outside the plane. My favorite story is when she broke up a White House dinner and took Eleanor Roosevelt on a night flight to Baltimore, still in her evening gown and gloves!

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

The ability to improve access for people around the world. We can change lives with that access and I’m excited to be part of the effort to make that happen.

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.

Dennis-Michael McKaskey

Title at Volansi: Research and Development Flight Integration Manager

Joined the team: 2019

Team member #36

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

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

I worked at GM Cruise and helped validate autonomous vehicles as a safety driver team lead and then later as a lead on the data acquisition team working with engineers to gather the data they needed to improve code for safety and reliability. I received pilot ratings at Chandler Gilbert Community College through their 141 training school and was flight instructing just before Volansi asked me to apply to join the team.

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

My team assists flight test engineers with taking research and development projects and flying them to verify that they are a field-ready product. We also fly the newly built aircraft and verify that they perform the way they were designed.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

Setting up and organizing a flight testing area one hour from San Francisco (commonly referred to as “The Farm”). This site has helped Volansi rapidly prototype and integrate our products.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Anything outdoors, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, flying (drones and manned aircraft).

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

Clarence “Kelly” Johnson. The work he and others did at Skunk Works amazes me. My favorite airplane is the SR-71 Blackbird, so it is my goal to see and take a picture in front of every SR-71 and A-12. I’ve gotten pictures in front of about half of them so far.

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

Emergency medical delivery and being able to get supplies to people in need at a faster pace than trucks or manned aircraft is going to save a lot of lives.

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.