To jointly develop unmanned helicopters and associated systems in conjunction with strategic partners to target segment applications.
Bill is an aerospace engineer with expertise in aircraft conceptual, preliminary, detailed design, stability and control, structural dynamics, and UAS project management. He focuses on UAS design as well as modeling, simulation, and controller synthesis for fixed and rotary wing UAS aircraft. One of his most exciting undertakings, prior to launching Pulse Aerospace, was working as the chief designer for the Meridian aircraft--a 1,100 lb 26-ft wingspan UAS that was designed to measure ice thickness and bed surface topology in Antarctica and Greenland. He was responsible for the Meridian's conceptual, preliminary and detailed design, and he managed several groups of engineers throughout the manufacturing and development phases.
He conducted his graduate research at the University of Kansas Flight Test Laboratory. Bill holds two patents and his previous work includes the development of several new unmanned aircraft systems including the Hawkeye UAS, the Wolverine helicopter UAS, and the Meridian UAS. Bill earned his B.S. and an M.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of Kansas.
Lance is an aerospace engineer specializing in UAS avionics, automatic flight control systems, and flight testing. He co-developed, integrated and flight tested fully automatic systems on many variations of fixed-wing and helicopter UAS machines--including the Meridian UAS, Yamaha RMAX helicopters , and other nonconventional unmanned aircraft programs. In addition, he helped design and develop the Wolverine III electric UAS helicopter currently in use in various civil and defense applications including the UAS Training Program at K-State Salina.
Lance received his M.S. in UAS avionics and flight test with honors from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Kansas. His experience in unmanned systems, flight dynamics and formal controller synthesis, high fidelity inertial measurement methods, flight data and dynamics analysis of aircraft is a very valuable asset to Pulse Aerospace.
Lance is also a professional UAS and R/C test pilot who holds certification for Yamaha RMAX helicopter operation and piloting. He has trained individuals at the nation's leading Department of Defense National Laboratories and University robotics institutes on UAS helicopter flight operations and integrated flight control system operations. In 2009, Lance successfully piloted the maiden voyage of the 1200-lb. Meridian UAV at Ft. Riley, Kansas.
Bill Donovan and Lance Holly met in 2002 as undergraduate students at the University of Kansas. They were teammates at KU in the SAE Heavy Lift Competition, the premier international "design-build-fly" competition for undergraduate students in aerospace engineering. The KU team's entry, piloted by Lance, took first place overall that year. It was the first time a US team had won the competition in many years. And so it began.
By chance, Bill and Lance jumped into the same van after the competition. During this fortuitous drive home... two undergraduate students in aerospace engineering, full of confidence, International Competition title in hand, gearing up for graduate school, the respect of the faculty and their research budgets at their fingertips... they brainstormed many of the initial concepts that would shape their graduate research focus specifically toward unmanned aircraft.
Lance went on to specialize in modern UAV avionics, inertial sensing, and UAV dynamic modeling through flight test and data acquisition. He developed KU's first Data Acquisition (DAQ) system for dynamic model extraction of small helicopters from flight test data. Later, he built upon this system to build a modular avionics system for use on fixed and rotary winged UAVs. This system was tested on a Yamaha RMAX helicopter (180 lbs UAV helicopter piloted by Lance), and in the Hawkeye UAV (a 100 lbs Modular fixed wing UAV designed and built at KU by a team lead by Lance and Bill for which they have received 2 patents). This effort led to Lance's Master's Degree with Honors, a title rarely given by the Aerospace Engineering Department at KU.
Meanwhile, Bill was working on the early stages and preliminary design of an unmanned aircraft designed specifically to carry ice-penetrating radar in Antarctica and Greenland. The vehicle, later dubbed the Meridian, was developed under the National Science Funded Science and Technology Center CReSIS (Center for Remote sensing of Ice Sheets). This was a multi-million dollar, NSF funded center, based at the University of Kansas. Bill lead this design development from concept to field deployment of the 1,100lbs vehicle, which has now been deployed and flown in Antarctica 2 seasons and Neem, Greenland, a barren camp inside the Arctic Circle, sitting on a mile of ice where Bill slept in a tent for six weeks supporting flight tests of the Meridian. Bill’s work on the Meridian shaped his Master’s thesis and coming Doctoral dissertation. The Meridian went on to break several unofficial records, including being the largest UAV designed, built, and flown at a University Research Center, the largest UAV to operate from Antarctica or Greenland, also, the only UAV to fly off of three different surfaces (Pavement, Grass, and Ice) within its first five flights.
Upon Lance receiving his Master’s Degree in 2005, Bill & Lance entered into a partnership with a start up aerospace company. The focus of the new venture was to help program and develop the automatic flight control system used in the Meridian. This assignment allowed Bill & Lance to really roll up their sleeves and dig deeper into the guts of aircraft design, structural design, avionics, navigation, control, ground test, flight test, and piloting of this novel and highly risky University run aircraft development program.
During this period, Bill and Lance were able to develop their relationship with Swiss based researchers and entrepreneurs Jacques and Christoph (CEO of weControl and Aeroscout respectively). This newly formed partnership worked together to design specialized integrations of automatic flight control systems on helicopter and fixed wing UAVs--utilizing the hardware and firmware provided from Switzerland. Ultimately, finding a niche in the helicopter market where the competition was, and still is weak. They went on to successfully integrate fully automatic flight control systems on developmental UAVs for large defense contractors, University programs, DoD and National Labs, as well as commercial research entities. They developed a reputation for formal and advanced controller implementations that worked reliably on systems with unstable open loop dynamics (ie. challenging vehicles), and especially helicopters.
Having spent nearly a decade working on advanced flight control system design and integration for helicopter UAVs, Lance has become a highly respected expert in unmanned helicopter systems. Similarly, Bill, through his Doctoral work on the Meridian UAS, has honed his expertise in advanced vehicle system design, from concept through detailed design for manufacturing. In 2010, Bill was invited to be an instructor for the University of Kansas Aerospace Short Course program, where he lectured industry professionals and government officials on the concept of conceptual design of unmanned aircraft. Alone, the two have become exceptional engineers, but together, their collective experience and expertise make them the ideal team to lead the development of a new unmanned helicopter system that would be unmatched in the industry. Combining this expertise with the increased profile of the unmanned helicopter market, they were highly motivated to develop a brand new helicopter based upon all of their education and six years of "aerospace startup" experience.
At the time, they asked one simple question—“If we had a clean sheet of paper, a very small, family-funded development budget, and unique insight to the requirements and specific challenges of operating small UAVs in many applications across the country, what would we design?" From there, the VAPOR was born. They went on to design it with a passion for elegance and simplicity, with careful attention to what it would take to successfully build hundreds repeatedly and successfully, with consideration to the rapid advancements of the industry and the requirement for modularity to keep up with innovation. By pouring their heart and soul into everything they do, they opted for naming their new enterprise—Pulse Aerospace.
Pulse Aerospace was formed in the 3rd quarter of 2011 with the primary focus to take advantage of the booming commercial, industrial, military, and security unmanned aircraft market. Its premier product, the VAPOR, is the most usable UAV helicopter in the world.