Honoree: Daniel Czerwonka
Varda Space Industries
Georgetown University Law Center
In the last four years, Dan Czerwonka helped take the world’s first drone unicorn (Zipline International with a current valuation of $2.8 billion) from approximately 20 employees to 700 on five continents. He personally built the world’s first commercial medical drone ports, equipped with state-of-the-tart medical and blood supply chain equipment in Rwanda in East Africa and Ghana in West Africa, racking up several other world-firsts along the way.
Czerwonka has worked directly with regulators and legislatures in multiple countries to enable commercial drone delivery at national scales, and procured several more world-firsts, including permissions to fly commercial drones long range and beyond visual line of sight, over urban areas, to transport medical lab samples, hazardous pathogens, and vaccines, and more.
Interestingly, Czerwonka was directly responsible for procuring permission from the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority to transport the world’s first COVID-19 lab samples by drone from thousands of citizens across the country to its two national testing labs, located within the country’s two most populous cities, which also required integration with Air Traffic Control and two major international airports, thereby reducing test result turn-around by two to three days and enabling the country to contain the spread of COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic. He was also responsible for procuring the first long range commercial drone flight permissions in the U.S. from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to transport cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment to Novant Health’s Hospitals in North Carolina.
In 2021, Czerwonka joined Varda Space Industries as general counsel for the latest “new space” start-up from Peter Thiel’s Founder’s Fund focused on in-orbit manufacturing. Varda secured $14 million in seed funding and closed a $42 million Series A round last year co-led by Khosla Ventures and Caffeinated Capital. Czerwonka currently manages the company’s legal and regulatory affairs, including working with NASA and the Air Force, as well as procuring permissions from the FCC, NOAA and FAA.