Humanitarian drone evangelist resurfaces at Auterion

He is far removed from the poster boys of boy band members and movie stars of yesteryears, but to the drone world, Romeo Durscher is the face of humanitarian drones everywhere.

He has travelled the world, preaching the gospel of how indispensable drone technology has become, especially in the public safety sphere, in which he has had played a starring role in drones saving people’s lives. Little wonder then, that the drone technology world went into a tailspin when it was announced in December last year that Romeo was leaving was leaving his post as Senior Director Public Safety Integration at DJI.

having spent a significant part of his life at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), there were real fears among drone industry players that drone technology was losing one of its most important brains at a time when it was struggling for its identity in the USA.

As it turns out, we should not have worried at all.

After recharging his batteries during the holiday season, Romeo has resurfaced at open-source drone software company Auterion – a company headquartered in his native home of Switzerland – who have appointed him Vice President of Public Safety. The company provides clients with an ecosystem of software-defined drones, payloads, and third-party applications within a single platform based on open-source standards. With more than 60 employees across offices in California, Switzerland, and Germany, Auterion’s global customer base includes GE Aviation, Quantum Systems, Freefly Systems, Avy, and the U.S. Government.

“We are thrilled today to announce the appointment of Romeo Durscher as Auterion’s new Vice President of Public Safety with the mission to help first responders fully realise the potential of their drone systems with open-source software,” the Zurich-based company said in statement.

This was NOT Auterion calling out to DJI employees

It is interesting how Auterion succeeded in attracting Romeo into their employ, given how they had joined the bandwagon competitors throwing pot shots at DJI while Romeo was still there. Remember the troubles DJI are having the USA, where the federal government is trying to hound them out of all government contracts, ostensibly for security reasons? Well; a number of rival companies are jostling to occupy the space vacated by DJI, and Auterion is one of them. They even posted a cheeky advert on their website, which we are not at all assuming was an indirect SOS for Romeo to come join them. They had already bagged Cynthia Huang (former director of business development) and Arnaud Thiercelin (former Head of Research and Development) from the same organisation; why not go for another one?

Of course, that is not what happened at all; but Auterion are excited for a future with Romeo nevertheless.

“One of the drone industry’s top executives and a highly experienced leader in aerospace and unmanned aerial systems, Romeo joins Auterion from DJI, where he held the role of Senior Director of Public Safety Integration,” the company said. “During Romeo’s six years at DJI he built the Public Safety vertical and through his leadership and drive to bring new technologies to emergency services, he has become a well-known and respected thought leader in the space. Prior to joining DJI, Romeo spent twelve years working on NASA’s Heliophysics Mission Solar Dynamics Observatory at Stanford University.”

Romeo also played significant roles in the build and designs of some drones at DJI, most notably the Mavic 2 Enterprise and the Matrice 300. Auterion says Romeo’s role at the organisation will be to lead the strategy and go-to-market for Auterion’s suite of products for the public safety market.

“First responders will be able to take full advantage of the customisation and flexibility available with Auterion’s easy-to-use platform and fast-growing ecosystem of NDAA compliant drone manufacturers and independent software vendors.” 

Romeo himself said he could not wait to start his new role

“I am incredibly excited to join Auterion and be part of the next evolution in the drone industry. Auterion’s open-source ecosystem provides first responders with transparent, secure, and configurable solutions that improve over time” he said. “For users to realise the full potential of their drone systems they need greater choice and flexibility. Auterion solves this by bringing together the best from providers across the industry to give users the ability to fully customize their systems all within a single platform.”

Speaking to online drone publication, DroneDJ, Romeo said he chose Auterion over the many offers he had because the company will give him the opportunity to implement his long-term strategy, some he could not get at his previous job.

“At Auterion we can think about the future differently,” Romeo said. “Previously I was often stuck with planning very short term, when what is often needed, is a mid- to long-term approach to provide continuation, stability and standardisation. What is driving future growth are open standards. Instead of one company creating a standard, by pushing their own proprietary solution, the community, and the industry, are working together on open standards.

“This allows solutions to be built toward those standards; for example, a drone operator only has to learn one user interface, and that operator can utilise one device to control different manufacturer’s drones. This means learning and training is simplified, standardized, and actual deployment is more efficient. This results in end users having greater choice with platforms using the open-standard.”

Whatever his motivations, we are delighted that Romeo has stayed in the industry, and hope he has a swell time at Auterion.


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