Five by Five Development

Bill Vaglienti


University of Washington
BS in Aerospace Engineering 1996


University of Washington Aeronautical Laboratory (UWAL) 1994-1996
Aeronautical engineer, The Insitu Group 1997-1999
Co-founder and Co-owner, Cloud Cap Technology 1999-2009
Chief Autopilot Engineer, Cloud Cap Technology 2009-2012
Founder and Owner, Five by Five Development 2013-



While at university Bill worked at the UWAL Kirsten Wind Tunnel as crew member and later crew chief. The Kirsten is a low speed 8'x12' dual return circuit tunnel. Bill oversaw tunnel maintenance, crew training, and commercial testing for various aircraft customers. In addition he participated in the complete redesign, implementation, and verification of the tunnel data acquisition and reduction system; taking the system from 1970s era main frame computers to modern PC based graphical systems.

Leaving university Bill worked for The Insitu Group, a small company in Bingen WA that was developing the Aerosonde: a small autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Aerosonde was designed to solve a chronic data shortage problem plaguing numerical weather forecasting: the absence of insitu weather sampling over the oceans. As originally conceived the Aerosonde would act as a mobile weather balloon; returning measurements of pressure, temperature, humidity, and winds in vertical soundings as it traversed over the oceans. During his tenure at Insitu Bill took over the software development for Aerosonde, working on the flight, simulation, and ground station software. He also served as both internal and external pilot for the Aerosonde, participating in many flight tests and deployments. Most significantly Bill served as site lead, and internal and external pilot, for the landing of the first ever crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by an autonomous UAV in August 1998. That UAV, Aerosonde Laima, now rests in the Boeing museum of flight in Seattle WA.

In the spring of 1999 Bill, and partner Ross Hoag, left Insitu to found Cloud Cap Technology (CCT) in Hood River OR. CCT was founded on the idea that there would be a need for high quality components to serve the growing UAV market. Traditionally UAV flight management systems were organically developed by the vehicle manufacturer for the specific application at hand. Cloud Caps original idea was to produce a generic flight management system that could be adapted as needed by the customer to manage a variety of vehicles and applications.

In early 2002 CCT succeeded in that goal by producing the Piccolo autopilot system. Piccolo refers to "a small instrument an octave higher than others", a fitting name for the system. Piccolo was generic, with all the tools needed to adjust it to different vehicle designs included. The Piccolo also exemplified system integration, including all the flight sensors, the datalink, processing, payload management, and power management in a single small package. In addition to the autopilot itself the Piccolo system included ground station hardware and software, hardware and software in the loop simulation, and all the ancillary components needed to integrate into an airframe.

During Piccolo development Bill served as the technical visionary: specifying system requirements and architecture. In addition he was the lead software developer, implementing the embedded operating environment including the uBurst real time operating system and the MPC555 driver environment. Bill implemented the Piccolo communications protocol, fixed wing flight controls, the original user interface, the interface between the autopilot and the simulator, and many other aspects of the system. Today the Piccolo system is widely recognized as the most capable and flexible small UAV flight management system available. Piccolo can be used to fly fixed and rotary wing vehicles, weighing as little as one pound or up to several thousand pounds. It can autonomously land and take off, from catapults, wheels, into nets (including nets that are moving), and recover into skyhooks.

Piccolo has shipped nearly 4000 units, has achieved experimental aircraft certification with the FAA, Navair flight certification, and has been deployed to wartime theater operations on multiple different vehicles, accumulating many tens of thousands of hours. In addition Piccolo is favored as the system of choice for university and research organizations, as its design lends it to customization for different applications. Piccolo has been adapted to fly blimps, manage aerostats, drive boats, and other applications never originally considered in its design. Piccolo remains the signature product for Cloud Cap Technology.

In 2005 CCT began development of stabilized camera payloads for UAVs. At that time there was a dearth of small high performance payloads, and many customers of the Piccolo system had been asking if Cloud Cap could develop such a product. The result, called the TASE gimbal, was introduced in 2006. As with the autopilot Bill served as the lead software developer. He authored the stabilization and control algorithms, implemented the gimbal communications protocol, and developed the interface between the autopilot and the gimbal. Over the ensuing years the TASE gimbal evolved into a family of systems with ever greater performance; but each sharing a common legacy of high integration and small size. The TASE gimbal is the payload of choice for developers of weight constrained UAVs, and has been deployed to theater in several forms on different aircraft.

In 2009 CCT was purchased by Goodrich. Bill stayed on at Cloud Cap as chief engineer, and later chief autopilot engineer. From 2009 through 2012 Cloud Cap quadrupled in revenues and head count. Several new smaller autopilot variants were developed, as well as the highly successful TASE400 gimbal, with Bill sharing a leading technical role in the development of those products.

At the end of 2012 Bill retired from Cloud Cap Technology to found Five by Five Development, LLC. Five by Five is focused on concepts for small civil and commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems such as quad rotors; and the integration of mobile phone technologies into UAVs. Five by Five is positioning itself to be a key technology supplier to the coming use of UAVs in the civil and commercial markets.

In 2015 Bill teamed up with Ross Hoag again to develop a new business, Power4Flight. Power4Flight is focused on providing complete UAS powertrain solutions featuring high performance Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) as a key technology.