Former Assistant Secretary of the US Air Force brings deep expertise in unlocking defense spending in R&D and emerging technologies to venture-backed companies
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, March 3, 2021 – Volansi, the leader in autonomous, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) middle-mile drone delivery services, backed by Lightspeed and Icon Ventures, today announced the appointment of Dr. Will Roper, the former Assistant Secretary of the US Air Force, to its Board of Directors. Dr. Roper will focus on the company’s strategy, operations, and growth in defense markets.
In his prior role, Dr. Roper served as Assistant Secretary of the US Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, where he oversaw an annual budget of $60 billion. He was responsible for all research and development, test, production, modernization, and logistics efforts for the Air Force and Space Force, and was instrumental in accelerating acquisition processes as well as fostering a disruptive innovative culture inside of government.
“Dr. Will Roper joins Volansi’s board with a reputation as a transformative, forward-looking leader,” said Volansi CEO and co-Founder Hannan Parvizian. “His deep expertise in emerging technologies and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in logistics operations will be instrumental in aiding Volansi’s mission to change the future of supply chain. I’m thrilled to welcome Dr. Roper into the Volansi team and look forward to his leadership as we continue to push the boundaries of autonomous flight.”
While at the Air Force, Dr. Roper made large strides to open defense market opportunities to commercial companies and private investors, spearheading initiatives like AFWERX and Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) reform. He led Air Force-wide technology transformations for software development, artificial intelligence, and digital engineering. He also initiated high tech programs for hypersonic weapons, autonomous drones, and a militarized internet of things, all while overseeing the day-to-day readiness of over 5,000 military aircraft and support systems.
“Commercial technology companies like Volansi are leading a wave of disruptive innovation for defense missions,” said Dr. Roper. “Bringing speed and agility historically absent in government procurement, many vendors have early revenue-generating opportunities in national security as a path to commercial success. Volansi is uniquely positioned in the commercial UAV market because of their focus on cargo and logistics, both huge components of modern militaries. I am excited to help them think through opportunities to bring on-demand, life-saving capabilities to men and women in uniform.”
Earlier in his career, Dr. Roper was the founding Director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), which leverages existing government and commercial systems to solve the military’s most pressing problems. His programs spanned concepts like hypervelocity artillery missile defense, multi-purpose missiles, smartphone-navigating weapons, big-data enabled sensing, 3D-printed systems, standoff arsenal planes, autonomous mini-fighters, and swarming drones, demonstrating the world’s largest swarm in 2017.
Volansi’s relationships with the Air Force and Department of Defense are well-established. The company was awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) through the Department of the Air Force Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Center of Excellence innovation program. Volansi was also named an official vendor of the United States Air Force’s Skyborg Vanguard Program.