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New senior execs named for Bend drones nonprofit


SOAR Oregon, a nonprofit funded by the state of Oregon, has made two significant hires as it begins its second year focused on developing the civilian Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS or commercial drone) industry in Oregon.

Chuck Allen, a veteran of entrepreneurial startups and multinational corporations, has been named Executive Director of SOAR; and John Stevens, a leader in manned and unmanned aircraft operations and program management, has been named Chief Operations Officer (COO) for Oregon’s unmanned aircraft test ranges.

Oregon is one of a limited number of states named by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to host an official test site for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the U.S. The ranges are expected to lead the development of new commercial UAS (drone) applications while also providing the FAA with the information necessary to show those applications can be flown safely.

Allen, an accomplished technology and operations executive manager across several industries, has served as Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer for Citigroup Global Equity Finance and as managing director of Microsoft’s Middle East business, where he established the regional office and took it through 600 percent growth over four successive years.

Allen’s background ranges from the highly entrepreneurial, such as mentoring startups, to the highly technical, such as running data centers for major trading firms and operations for a video-game company. His successes include helping to build the technology infrastructure to support a $60 million trading company and then rebuilding the data centers after they were lost on 9/11. Allen is also a pilot and drone hobbyist.

Allen succeeds Mark Morrisson, who resigned to pursue a personal project.

“We could not have had a better executive director over the last year than Mark as we and our many partners ramped up to take advantage of the opportunity to establish this new industry in the state,” said Collins Hemingway, board president of SOAR Oregon.

“Sad as we are to see him go, we have also found an exceedingly capable successor in Chuck, who has repeatedly shown the ability to succeed in complex and challenging environments. He and John, who brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience in both manned and unmanned aviation, have the skills to make Oregon a national leader in UAS applications.”

To the newly created role of COO for SOAR Oregon, Stevens brings ten years of experience in the oversight of civil manned and unmanned aircraft systems and thirty years in complex program management. The COO will be crucial in standing up Oregon’s test ranges to meet FAA safety and proficiency standards.

Stevens will execute SOAR’s operational strategy with the ranges at Pendleton, Warm Springs and Tillamook, with the FAA, and with Oregon’s partner in UAS operations, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks (UAF). UAF is the lead of the Pan Pacific UAS Test Range Complex (PPUTRC), with Oregon and Hawaii as partners.

Stevens, who most recently was the Range Manager for the Pendleton UAS Range, also served as Senior Director of Program Operations of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Center at New Mexico State University, one of the country’s leading schools in the development of UAS technologies.

He was founder and principal of the Sandia Performance Group in Albuquerque, providing strategic, technical, and program management solutions to aerospace and other organizations. Before that, he was involved in program management and flight test activities for a UAS firm and FAA certification projects for light jet and piston manned aircraft.

“From the moment of the test range award, Pendleton recognized that hiring the finest UAS professionals available would be paramount to our success,” said Pendleton Mayor Phillip Houk. “John was a tremendous asset to the Pendleton UAS Range, and we believe his technical expertise will now strengthen all three Oregon ranges and help make us even stronger competitors nationally.”

The filling of the two senior positions comes on the heels of the state announcing the support of $1.8 million dollars in UAS infrastructure for the Pendleton range through $1.1 million in grants and loans and an additional $545,000 in the form of a forgivable loan. The City of Pendleton, which funded the first phase of development at the range will contribute another $146,000 to the next phase.

About SOAR Oregon
SOAR Oregon is a statewide not-for-profit economic development organization focused on the development of the UAS industry in Oregon. Its mission is to foster growth in this rapidly evolving industry, connecting diverse industry sectors such as aviation, advanced manufacturing, high tech, software development, education, and more. For more information, see or

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