Top humanitarian drone expert leaves DJI

It does feel like a death in the family; and it is in a way.

Romeo Durscher – on of the most prominent evangelists for humanitarian drones in the world – has left DJI.

You might not understand it – after all, it might just be another employee leaving the aegis of a humongous organisation – but Romeo was way more than that when it came to promoting the work of drones for humanitarian purposes. An unassuming human being imbued with overflowing humility, Romeo travelled to South Africa to be with us at the 2019 edition of the Drones and Unmanned Aviation Conference in Johannesburg, to share his experiences with drone technology in the humanitarian space; where he gave practical instances of DJI drones’ contribution to the fight against annual menace of fires in California.

No event was too big or too small for him if it gave him a chance to lend a voice to drone technology as it applied to saving people’s lives and going into places where it was too dangerous for humans to venture.

Romeo led the DJI team that oversaw drones joining the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in the USA – the company lending hundreds of drones to public safety entities in various to help them stop the spread of COVID-19. And how sad it must feel that he leaves DJI at a time when all the good work he has done is threatening to unravel, following the order by the federal government in the USA for federal departments like the Department of Interior to ground their fleet of DJI drones on the pretext that the drones were gathering information on American soil and sending it to China – where the headquarters of DJI are based.

The company and Romeo have both confirmed that his six years with DJI have come to an end, with the latter saying it was not an easy decision.

“This has been an amazing journey and I have had some of my best moments the last six years,” said Romeo. “The decision was not an easy one. I have been very fortunate to work and be around some very wonderful, talented and driven people.”

During his half dozen years at DJI, he held positions as director of education, director of public safety integration, which later morphed into Senior Director of Public Safety Integration; a position he held until his last day at the company. It felt like Romeo had found a home in the application of drone technology for humanitarian purposes, taking charge of DJI’s strategic approach and integration of company technology into public safety, such as fire rescue, law enforcement, emergency medical services, search and rescue, among other applications.

He was also responsible for DJI’s Disaster Response Program – supporting public safety and disaster response and recovery organisations during natural disasters. This gave him the chance to build partnerships with public safety entities and organisations as they sought ways to fully integrate drone and UAV technology into their public safety operations; a challenge that saw him gallivant around the world preaching the gospel of the goodness of drones, making him the de facto face of drones for good across the industry.

“Romeo Durscher has been a tireless advocate for DJI and for drones in public safety for the past six years,” said DJI’s North America Communication lead, Adam Lisberg. “We want to thank him for his strong efforts to expand global awareness of how drones can save lives, protect property and keep first responders safe, and we wish him well in the next step of his career.”

Prior to his stint at DJI, Romeo had spent thirteen years at Stanford University as Senior Manager, responsible for Program Management for the University instrument on NASA Mission Solar Dynamics Observatory.

It looks like Wayne Baker, Romeo’s number two in his department – who himself has a decorated history in public safety – will be taking over as Senior Director.

Mr Durscher has not yet said where he is headed to next. But wherever, it is, we hope it heavily involves the unmanned flying friends he has made many of us fall in love with.

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