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.

John Steen

Title at Volansi:  Director of Sales and Business Development, Defense Solutions

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?

Prior to joining Volansi I served 23 years in the U.S. Army. I flew the Apache and Kiowa Warrior during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. I retired in 2018 and went to work for a defense contractor in the UAS field. I joined Volansi in July 2021.  

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

I seek opportunities to promote Volansi, and its products, to the defense and federal market. I ensure that customer requirements are understood by the Volansi team so that we build products that meet the needs of our Warfighters. 

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

My favorite project at Volansi has been The U.S. Army Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS) programVolansi has partnered with the Sierrra Nevada Corporation and passed the first key milestone in the process of landing the FTUAS contract. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I hunt, fish, and spend time with my Family. 

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

My heroes are the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that build, fix and fuel the aircraft. They do hours of hard work in demanding conditions so that pilots can support the Warfighters on the ground. 

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

I am most excited about the advent of Interconnected drone networks that provide both multi-role capabilities to customers. 

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.

Bert Hui

Title at Volansi: Senior Technical Program Manager

Joined the team: 2021

Hometown:  Oakland, California

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

I’d spent 16 years at Insitu and watched it grow from a startup to where it is today in various roles: IT support initially, and eventually into a software test engineer role for Insitu’s ScanEagle and RQ-21A Blackjack air vehicle platforms before becoming the software product manager for RQ-21A.

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

I’m the senior technical program manager for what we call the SARA stack (software, avionics and robotics architecture) and am responsible for the cost, schedule and performance of the engineering teams that build the “guts” of our air vehicles.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

We have quite a few autonomy projects in the works within the SARA teams which have all been very interesting to be a part of. I don’t think I can just pick one of them.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m a huge fan of cycling of various types (mountain, road, bikepacking/bike touring) and am also a big fan of modern board games.

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

The Pony Express was one of the first examples of having a unified, transcontinental system for logistics that existed which paved the way for future ventures to improve upon. So, no specific heroes per se, but a service that had broken ground on what was within the realm of the possible.

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

I’m excited about using drones to collect and provide data in situations that would otherwise be dangerous for human beings to be in whether that be for military or for commercial disaster relief. I’m also excited by possibilities of being able to provide time-critical humanitarian aid via medical deliveries.

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.

Daniela Jones

Title at Volansi: Senior Technical Program Manager

Joined the team: 2021

Hometown:  Portland, Oregon

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

I’m an aviation nerd through and through. I worked at Columbia Helicopters for 9 years, first as a mechanical engineer and ultimately as a project manager. At Columbia I worked with engineering to modify the helicopters as needed to meet customer missions and contracts.

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

At Volansi I help bring different teams together to do some pretty exciting stuff. I help turn the customers’ needs into achievable engineering development projects.

What has been your favorite project so far at Volansi?

My favorite project thus far has been working with the M20 team during all the flight testing that was needed to complete the SBIR milestones. This was a great undertaking by the team and they executed tremendously; it was cool to learn all the testing that is needed to get a mission accomplished.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to spend time with my family, snowboarding and being outdoors.

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

Frank Piasecki is one brilliant mind. He pioneered the design of the tandem rotor helicopter (think Chinook helicopters). I had the honor of visiting the Piasecki headquarters in Pennsylvania and getting a glimpse at all the cool projects and designs he did over the years.

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

I am really excited about the opportunity that Volansi has to change lives and provide timely access to critical supplies where it has been impossible previously.

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.

Bri Leahy

Title at Volansi: Aircraft Certification Specialist / Senior Technical Program Manager

Joined the team: 2021

Hometown: The Pacific Northwest

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

With a background in mechanical design, test, and structural analysis of aircraft and aircraft components, I transitioned into a Product Certification Management role in 2017. Since then, I have orchestrated projects with the FAA to complete Type Certifications, Supplemental Type Certifications, and Amended Type Certifications in the manned aerospace industry. I have also coordinated Airworthiness approvals and implemented Minor Change Agreements.

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

At Volansi I work with the FAA to facilitate the conversation around Airworthiness and Product Certification. I also work with Volansi’s team of experts to champion the culture and processes that drive front-end design for safety and compliance as we strategize for an exciting future in the UAS industry.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I utilize fastpacking (a hybrid version of running and ultralight backpacking) to train for and run ultramarathons. I am also a certified crosscut sawyer for the Pacific Crest Trail Association, and I lead volunteer trail crews to clear our local sections of the Pacific Crest Trail and feeder trails. On top of that, I have a working-line, Australian shepherd puppy who is keeping me on my toes… when I’m not working on renovating my 1928 old Mill House in Bend, Oregon.

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

I have deep respect for every industry-expert working to facilitate the regulatory growth surrounding Unmanned Aircraft System integration into the National Airspace. To give names would be to fail in acknowledging that it will take every single one of us to champion safety and prevent misshapes during this growth.

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 drones widely embraced for delivery of life-saving supplies. From efficient supply of medical equipment to emergency supplies in disasters, the use of drones has the potential to revolutionize, not only efficient delivery, but equitable delivery.

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.

Joey Kroeger

Title at Volansi: Flight Test Engineering Manager

Joined the team: 2019

Employee No. 59

Hometown: Mission Viejo, California

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

I graduated from UC Berkeley in Mechanical and Electrical engineering where I conducted several years of research in a UAV lab that utilized PX4. I got into the UAV field through FPV drone racing where I competed intercollegiate and was part of the drone club.

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

I lead the flight test engineering team. Our main function is to flight test initial prototypes and take them through flight envelope expansion to test and define the limits of the aircraft. 

What has been your favorite project at Volansi?

The first and most favorite project I worked on and led was developing the M20 fixed-wing aircraft. We used an existing airframe that we previously designed and converted it to a fixed wing and it worked. It went from start to finish in just six weeks, which was amazing accomplishment! 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy participating in triathlons, mountaineering and rock climbing. 

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

I know it is a couple years down the line, but the idea of air taxis is very exciting to me. Being able to fly from place to place and look down on the world during our daily commute is an incredible thought, especially in the Bay area.  

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.

Johnie Dover

Title at Volansi: Senior Quality Engineer

Joined the team: 2021

Employee No. 152

Hometown: Philomoth, Oregon

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

Prior to joining Volansi, I worked in manned aviation quality for 16 years at three Oregon aviation companies: Columbia Aircraft/Cessna, Columbia Helicopters and Epic Aircraft. I’m experienced with MRO, PC and Operator regulatory requirements as well as AS9100, AS9110 and Department of Defense standards. I’m an American Society of Quality (ASQ) member and am seeking to obtain six-sigma green belt certification. For the last 10 years, my main objective has been supporting Type Certificate (TC), Production Certification (PC) efforts as well as establishing and maintaining Quality Management Systems (QMS). While at Epic Aircraft, I became an authorized FAA Designated Manufacturing Inspection Representative (DMIR). 

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

My primary focus has been to help establish and implement our AS9100 Quality Management System. Some of the processes included within the QMS are Corrective and Preventative Action, Inspection, Calibration, Supplier Control, Non-Conforming Material and Internal Auditing. 

What has been your favorite project at Volansi?

Being part of a team that has built up the Quality inspection area. Quality also worked with Production and Flight Ops to establish an Aircraft Transfer process. This process has made the handoff between departments more repeatable and efficient as well as improving our internal customer satisfaction. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love being outdoors, enjoying Central Oregon while kayakingSUPing as well as off-roading on my dual sport. I enjoy restoring/upcycling furniture as well as creating new works of art from locally sourced juniper slabsalso enjoy a hard day’s work on my friend’s farm. 

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

My mentors that I worked with through the years that have taught me so much about the industry. They instilled in me that safety and integrity should always be at the forefront of my decision-making. They always believed in my capabilities and pushed me to my potential. 

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

I’m super proud to be part of an industry that has and will continue to have a positive impact on the world and our future. Some of the applications I’m most elated about are humanitarian aid, disaster relief, lifesaving logistics and wildlife conservation efforts.   

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.

Donna Barton

Title at Volansi: Senior Electrical Engineer

Joined the team: 2021

Hometown: Regina, Saskatchewan

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

For most of my career, I’ve designed radio frequency and analog circuitry for a wide range of applications. I came to Oregon to work at Tektronix after graduating from Montana State University. Tektronix taught me phase-based (or gated) design, a disciplined approach that served me well in the medical device field and one which is applicable to avionics. A small company making a wireless vital signs monitor brought me to Central Oregon, and I’ve been here ever since. Bend favors engineers with flexibility and I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide range of products including wrist-worn actigraphy, an in-field IV curve tester for solar panels and rapid diagnostic equipment for disease detection. Volansi is my first foray into avionics. 

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

provide electronics expertise to the Production and Maintenance facility here in Bend. That covers anything from writing Requirements Specifications for a new product to be designed by a contract manufacturer to drawing cable harness assemblies and troubleshooting production issues. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Enjoying the many outdoor opportunities Central Oregon has to offer is my first choice. I volunteer with Central Oregon Nordic Club (CONC) and Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) to maintain and build trails and stock the ski shelters with wood. Woodworking and studying kung-fu are two other hobbies. Recently, I got a new puppy, and he is occupying a large portion of my time. 

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

All of the over 400,000 individuals who worked on the original Apollo program. Each one had a vision of something bigger than themselves that they were willing to work toward together. Just imagine the place they were starting from – a computer was a person who did calculations, and they were shooting for the moonIn a very short amount of time, this group of amazing individuals invented or accelerated dozens of technologies, many of which were yet to be conceptualized. Talk about teamwork! 

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

Deliveries to remote locations, especially in countries with insufficient infrastructure, and emergency relief are the two applications that excite me the most. Looking forward to seeing paradigms change in logistics. 

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.