Symposium Speakers


Sheriff Chuck Allen

Sheriff Chuck AllenSheriff Chuck Allen was elected to serve as Washoe County's 26th Sheriff on November 4th, 2014, his latest endeavor in over 30 years of public service that began with his entry into the United States Air Force in 1984.

After two years of active duty, Sheriff Allen transferred to the Wisconsin Air National Guard as a traditional guardsman serving as a security policeman. He relocated to Reno, Nevada in 1987 where he continued his service in the military as a member of the Nevada Air National Guard. In 1990, Sheriff Allen entered civilian service as a law enforcement officer by joining the ranks of the Nevada Highway Patrol where he served as a State Trooper for over 24 years. During his last 11 years with the state Highway Patrol he served as the agency's Public Information Officer, working closely with six Nevada Highway Patrol Chiefs and six Directors of the Department of Public Safety. Sheriff Allen gave nearly 31 years of military service before retiring at the rank of Chief Master Sergeant. During his tenure in the military, he served seven years as a First Sergeant, and nearly four years as the Human Resource Advisor to the Commander of the 152nd Airlift Wing. Since 2001, he was deployed to many locations around the world including Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Germany and Iraq.


Steve Bishop

U.S. Air Force and Special Operations ProgramsSteve Bishop

MS International Relations (Troy State University)

Bachelors Fine Arts (Wayne State University)

United States Air Force (Retired)

Steve Bishop joined the Insitu in 2011 to take responsibility for market development of Insitu's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) within the Air Force, Special Operations, other DoD and government agencies. He is also responsible for the company's commercial Academic efforts. Steve retired from the United States Air Force after twenty years as a career intelligence officer with a myriad of experiences that include commanding counter-intelligence operations in Bosnia, air-tactics, special operations and Survival Evasion, Resistance and Escape expertise. He held previous positions as an AFSOC Government Service (GS-13) analyst, Senior Analyst for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and MacAulay Brown. For the past fifteen years, he championed and managed many out-of the-box unmanned systems concepts such as using a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) to feed live video to an AC-130 gunship and to special operations ground teams simultaneously; dropping an unmanned ground vehicle from a SUAS and conceptualizing air-launched off-board sensing using a SUAS dropped from an Air Force Predator to conduct below the weather reconnaissance. He is a visionary and one of two pioneers who established AFSOC's initial UAS programs and authored the SUAS Portions of the first Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) / UAS Flight Plan. He was one of the team members who developed the programmatic efforts for the stand-up of the first MQ-1 Predator squadron for AFSOC. He is well versed in joint requirements, test and evaluation, technology development and futures plans and programs. Steve possesses a Masters of Science in International Relations and Bachelors of Fine Arts degree with a Minor in Biology. He's authored/co-authored several papers on UAVs including the Society of Automotive Engineers International, Air-Launched Off-Board Sensing Expendable SUAS; Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) best paper in 2003, "Aerospace Applications of Unmanned Systems in Urban Operations." Steve is an active member in AUVSI, former President, Vice-President of the Emerald Coast Chapter of AUVSI as well as prior Sub-Committee Chairman for F38.03 UAV Operator Standards for ASTM and member National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) and the Air Force Association (AFA). He is an expert marksman, skeet shooter, fisherman, artist, illuminator and illustrator. Steve lives with his wife Amy in Florida and has two grown children Cassie and Ryan.


David Kovar

David KovarDavid Kovar has been active in search and rescue since 1995 when he joined CalESAR, one of California's few independent search and rescue teams. He participated in SAR missions all over California in ground, swift water, and high angle rescue roles. He also participated in SAR management on a wide variety of searches, including HRD canine, wilderness, and abducted children. While in California he helped found and manage 1SRG, an international response, all volunteer SAR organization. With 1SRG he deployed to Mexico, Fiji, Australia and Tajikistan and managed deployments to Peru and Japan. In Illinois he volunteered with Tazewell County Emergency Management Agency where he participated in SAR, storm spotting, and damage assessment. He ran the county EOC for ten days after a tornado struck Washington, IL in 2013.

Mr. Kovar is now a volunteer New England K9 SAR as their communications officer. Mr. Kovar is well versed in ICS, has attended Inland SAR School twice, and instructed for Illinois Search and Rescue Council. He learned tracking from Joel Hardin, Rescue Systems 1 from Dallas Fire Department, and Swift water and Animal Rescue from Rescue 3 to name a few of his certifications. On the UAV side, Mr. Kovar founded the practice of UAV forensics, consults on cybersecurity and computer forensics, operates a commercial UAV firm in the Midwest, and works with a variety of SAR organizations on integrating UAVs into search & rescue and disaster response operations. He is also a rated pilot (single engine land and rotorcraft), sUAS pilot (fixed wing and quad copter) and ham radio operator. Mr. Kovar is the Advocacy Director for NASAR and has written UAV policy papers for the FAA, developed and given presentations on UAVs in SAR for various audiences, and is working on SAR UAV standards for ASTM.


Brian Kulpa

Picture of Brian Kulpa Brian Kulpa is the Owner of Brian Kulpa Photography LLC. Brian specializes in commercial cinematography and photography using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAS). Brian Kulpa Photography LLC has a Section 333/COA & Part 107 certified. Brian has been flying model aircraft, single rotor helicopters, and quad copters since 2000. After completing his homework, you would find Brian using the family computer to fly airplanes on flight simulators or tinkering with his model airplanes. These passions lead Brian to becoming a Part 61 Airman Certificate holder in addition to being a UAS Pilot.

Brian grew up in the rolling hills of Western Massachusetts, where the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains surrounded him. The pristine beauty of the Berkshires inspired him to capture nature and all of its surroundings in its purest form, most importantly fall. Seeing the hills turn into a natural painted canvas full of rich, vibrant colors, inspired him in such a way that visual storytelling was what Brian wanted to do. Brian now calls Northern Nevada home. The natural beauty of the mountains and Lake Tahoe make up one astonishing backdrop. By merging his passions of photography and flying, he has taken his talents to new heights.

In addition to being a UAS Pilot, Brian has an extensive background in television production. Brian was able to bring a drone program to his day job at KRNV News 4. After countless years of talks, it finally happened in January 2017. Brian and a colleague flew to Florida for training by Virginia Tech on UAS systems, a mandatory corporate policy for all of their pilots. Brian and his colleague have been able to give the viewers a different news experience than ones they are used to, and that is one from the air. Brian has been able to beta test software for Drone Deploy, a 3D Mapping Company, and Verifly, an on demand drone insurance company. A few of the most notable missions Brian has flown are ones for NASA, NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Crown Mining, and Douglas County SAR Demo in partnership with NAASIC. Drone technology is changing everyday; it is going to be a vital tool for years to come.


Mike May

Mike MayMike May has been a pioneer in new product and business development since 1980. He has a Masters' degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He worked for the Central Intelligence Agency as a Political Risk Analyst, for the Bank of California in automating wire transfers and cash machines and for TRW starting a new business area. Mike's start-up ventures have included developing the world's first and only Laser Turntable, inventing a portable heating cushion for sports and medical applications and starting two companies in adaptive technology including Sendero Group in 1999, which released the first ever accessible GPS for the blind.

Mike has met four Presidents including President Obama and several of his cabinet members to discuss national initiatives on adaptive technology. Mike was a member of the White House delegation to the 2010 Paralympics and has been inducted into the US Association of the Blind Hall of Fame. A book based on Mike May's life, Crashing Through, by best selling author, Robert Kurson, was released in May 2007. Mike has a very personal connection to SAR technologies. In January, Mike's son, Carson, went missing while skiing at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. For five long and storm battered days, the Search and Rescue team, approximately 400 people, searched for any sign of Carson. The search was called off due to weather and no substantial leads to his whereabouts. He was found six weeks later on February 29. Throughout this tragic ordeal, Mike learned a lot about SAR technologies and the privacy limitations. He is now embarking on a project to ultimately provide some technology solutions early in a search that will augment the traditional SAR methods that were impressive but ultimately not enough to find Carson in time to save his life.


Gene Robinson

Photo of Gene Robinson Gene Robinson founded RP Flight Systems, Inc., the manufacturer of the Spectra flying wing, in 2004. In February 2015, Gene partnered with Asiatech Drones, to produce and sell the Vigilent, long range fixed wing unmanned system.

From coast-to-coast, in 30 states and internationally in four countries, Gene has assisted law enforcement and Texas EquuSearch in SAR and other support missions flying the Spectra. In 2012, Gene authored First to Deploy, the first "how-to" book on using UAS during SAR and natural disasters. He travels the nation as a leading expert on using UAS in the national air space. He authored Obstacles to Using UA in the NAS and co-authored Memorial Day Floods, 2015, Wimberley, Texas, White Papers utilized by Texas Department of Public Safety, the Wimberley and the Austin Fire Departments among other agencies. Gene also formed RP Search Services, a non-profit 501 c3 in 2007 to bring UAS into the public service roles of search and rescue, fire-fighting and public safety support. In 2005, following the first search and recovery effort utilizing a UAS, Gene recognized the value of this unmanned technology and committed the next 12 years to bring this tool to the public service community. Gene currently serves as the Chief Pilot for the Wimberley Fire Department and provides mutual UAS aid to surrounding agencies and Hays County. Gene is currently in the startup phase with Drone Pilot, Inc., a full-fledged UA training program developed with his law enforcement partners that focuses on piloting proficiency and operations in a public safety environment.


Steve Pansky

Photo of Steve Pansky

Steve Pansky was born and raised in Los Angeles, California graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor's Degree in Criminal Law. With over 32 years of Service to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Pansky has a very broad experience in both the aviation industry and public safety.

With over 24 years of Service to the Federal Aviation Administration, Mr. Pansky has provided first and second level supervision at four different air traffic control field facilities as well as the management of training, quality assurance, airspace design and airspace procedures programs. Steve was a certified Air Traffic Controller at five separate facilities.  During his last nine years with the FAA in Washington D.C., Steve was a middle manager in three different organizations supporting the development and deployment of new equipment to the National Airspace System as well as the Program Manager for the Air Traffic Service Research and Strategic Development program. As a Federal Security Director for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for 8 years, Steve developed the organizational structure and management systems for the federalization of TSA operations at several Airports in the Northern and Eastern area of Nevada. As the Federal Security Director Steve provide the regulatory compliance oversight of the airlines and airport operations under prescribed federal regulatory authority as well as the interface with multi-modal transportation entities, Federal, State, County and City Law enforcement agencies within the Northern Nevada area on issues of interest surrounding airline and general aviation, foreign national flight instruction, motor carrier transportation, light and heavy rail, maritime, pipeline and the national power gird. He was responsible for tactical planning, execution and operating management for coordinated security services and other duties as prescribed by the Transportation Security Administration. And if that wasn't enough Steve was the Lead Manager under the Transportation Security Administration's National Disaster Preparedness Plan Program, Transportation Security Advance Team supporting pre and post recovery operations for hurricane's Ike and Gustav.   Steve currently works for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) supporting the Federal Aviation Administration's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Tactical Operations Emerging Technologies Team.  As a Senior Air Traffic Control Analyst for the past seven years, Steve has been the subject matter expert on all matters relating to the certificate of approval for unmanned Aircraft Systems by Federal, State, County, and City law enforcement/Fire and First Responder agencies and the coordination of air traffic requirements for manufactures applying for Special Airworthiness Certificates- Experimental Category.


Warren Rapp

Photo of Warren Rapp

LtCol (ret) Warren Rapp retired from the Nevada Air National Guard after serving in military for 26 years. He started off his career as a Marine pilot for ten years, then switched to the Nevada Air Guard for the last 16 years. He flew helicopters, fixed wing aircraft as an instructor in Navy Flight School, C-130s for the Nevada Air Guard, and finally unmanned aircraft at Creech AFB in Southern Nevada.

Highlights in LtCol Rapp's career include:

    Being a flight instructor in Navy Flight School-Corpus Christi Texas

    Completion of C-130 Aircraft Commanders Flight School-Little Rock, Arkansas    

    Commander of Airport Security Troops at Reno Tahoe IAP (2001-2002)    

    Director of Logistics for the NV Air National Guard    

    Commander of the 232nd Operations Squadron at Creech AFB from 2008-2014

LtCol Rapp also served on Governor Sandoval's committee for UAS economic development for Nevada, acting as a military technology advisor for Northern Nevada. Upon retirement, LtCol (ret) Rapp accepted a position with the Nevada Institute for Unmanned Systems (NIAS) and was tasked with setting up FAA UAV testing operations in Northern Nevada. In September 2014, LtCol Rapp (ret) was selected as the new Business Director for the University of Nevada Reno's Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center (NAASIC). This center will seek to establish local, state, and international business collaborations in the development of advanced autonomous systems. Robotics, UAVs, and advanced manufacturing will be the focus of business development.

Lieutenant Colonel Rapp was born in Clovis, New Mexico in 1967 but considers himself a Northern Nevada local as he attended Roy Gomm Elementary School, Swope Middle School, and graduated from Reno High School in 1985. LtCol Rapp attended Brigham Young University on an athletic scholarship for soccer from 1985-1990. Rapp's family lineage dates back to the late 1940s in Nevada, and he proudly boasts his parents were married in Hawthorne in 1956. He is currently married to his wife Kim, along with their four children, Jared, Brandon, McKenzie and Alexis.


Kevin Spiares

Kevin Spiares PhotoKevin Spiares and is Director of Strategy and Innovation at Koch Industries IT shared services company KBS, LP (Koch Business Solutions) and site Director for the Reno, Nevada office. In his role he is accountable for providing strategic guidance across the Koch Companies primarily concerning the impact of Technology on our ability to create value for our customers.  Kevin works closely with senior leaders and acts as a conduit to VC's, startups, strategic partners etc.

Koch is integral in creating the essentials that benefit daily life most: food, shelter, clothing and transportation. With ~$125Bn in revenue, 120,000 employees worldwide and 70,000 strong in the U.S., we continually strive to make life even better - in innovative ways that set industry best practices for quality and responsibility.


Mike Vorachek

Mike VorachekMike Vorachek currently serves as the President of the National Association For Search And Rescue.  He also serves as the Director of Emergency Services for the Idaho Civil Air Patrol.  Mike is a 20 year member of the Bonneville County Sheriff's SAR team in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Mike has extensive experience in search and rescue; law enforcement; emergency medicine; disaster and emergency services - serving at corporate, local, state, and federal levels.  Mike retired as a Lt Colonel from the US Army Reserve in 2006, with 34 years of active and reserve service.   Mike has a Master of Science degree in Industrial Safety and has served as an Affiliate Instructor teaching Emergency Management courses for the University of Idaho.  He retired from active emergency medical work in 2014, having been an Emergency Medical Technician since 1972, having served as a Wilderness EMT, and Tactical Medical for the Bonneville County Sheriff's SWAT team.  He current serves as a Reserve Deputy and Operations Support Specialist for the Sheriff's Office.


Susan Welsh

Photo of Susan Welsh

Susan Welsh is the Technical Program Manager at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Nevada Advanced Autonomous Innovation Center (NAASIC). In this role, Susan has been actively involved in mission planning for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flights in northern Nevada under the State of Nevada Certificate of Authorization. Susan has both an FAA private pilot license and an FAA remote pilot certificate, which allow her to act as Pilot in Command (PIC). She acted as the PIC for over 200 UAV flights in the Reno area and Colorado during 2016 and participated in NASA's test flights at the Reno-Stead Airport as an Observer/Controller. Susan teaches a UAV Visual Observer class through UNR and she is one of the instructors for the UAS Flight Coordinator Course that is being offered in Spring 2017 through the UNR College of Engineering. Susan has been involved with NAASIC's education and outreach efforts by organizing informal workshops on robotics and UAVs for students from rural Nevada communities. Before moving to Nevada, Susan had a career as a physical oceanographer in the Coastal Studies Institute and the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science at Louisiana State University. Susan's research focused primarily on deep water circulation and the impacts of oil spills using large scale ocean models. Susan puts her background as an oceanographer to use by teaching a senior level oceanography class at UNR.


Craig Hange

Craig HangeCraig attended the University of Cincinnati and graduated with a B. S. in Aerospace Engineering in 1986. He was a co-op student and worked at NASA Ames in the Powered Lift-Flight Investigations Branch and in the Unitary Wind Tunnels. Upon permanent assignment to Ames he returned to the Powered Lift Group and participated in the US/UK ASTOVL Program and various small scale hover tests. Craig served as the Project Director for the hover test of the Lockheed Large Scale Powered Model which eventually became the F-35B. In past decades Craig has continued the advocacy for STOL and Powered Lift technology development in the commercial sector to improve capacity and reduces delays and inefficiencies. Craig served as an associated project manager for NASA's Subsonic Fixed Wing Project and has been a strong advocate of dual military and civilian applications of powered-lift technology. In the last 8 years Craig has worked with UAS concepts, especially addressing missions that require austere take-off and landing, and autonomous low-speed operations in GPS denied environments. Craig is an Associate Fellow of AIAA and is the Chairman Vertical / Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) Aircraft Systems Technical Committee.


Richard Kelley

Photo of Richard Kelley

Richard Kelley is currently the chief engineer for the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center. He received his BS in Mathematics from the University of Washington in Seattle in 2006, and his MS and PhD in Computer Science and Engineering in 2009 and 2013 respectively. His research interests include robotics, human-robot interaction, machine learning, and unmanned aircraft systems.