Romeo Durscher, a leader in the drone world, leaves DJI

One of DJI’s most high-profile personalities and advocates has left the building. It’s unclear where Romeo Durscher is going next, but he will undoubtedly be missed.

If you’ve been involved in the drone world even tangentially, you’ve likely heard of Romeo Durscher. The Swiss-born, multilingual senior director of public safety integration at DJI has been a constant at major drone gatherings, carrying out workshops and otherwise sharing knowledge on the many ways that #dronesforgood is more than simply a hashtag. He has been, quite simply, one of the most high-profile advocates for the beneficial use of drones on the entire planet.

Romeo Durscher

And, in a loss for DJI, he appears to be moving on.

Where is Romeo Durscher going?

Well, that’s a good question. We won’t know the answer to that, though we’ve reached out to Romeo to ask. But the clue that something was up came in some promotional materials for the upcoming Interdrone Conference. Here’s the first version of the promo:

Here, Romeo Durscher has his DJI title

But later in the day?

Things had changed. Specifically, Romeo’s title:

Hmmm…something’s different

A new title for Romeo Durscher

In the second iteration, Romeo is listed as a “UAV public safety evangelist.” No DJI. It appears likely that Romeo himself asked for the revised version to be issued.

Tremendous legacy

The contributions Romeo Durscher has made to the industry are nearly incalculable. In addition to nearly countless conferences, papers, and research, he has also been tremendously hands-on with first responders, law enforcement, and others within the public safety sector. Romeo has worked alongside other professionals during some of the massive California wildfires, helping to coordinate the dispatch of a large number of drones at low altitude to capture high-resolution footage of the impacted areas. He’s highlighted the tremendous work carried out by Search and Rescue teams using drones as tools, day or night, to help find and rescue people in peril. He has patiently shared his tremendous knowledge with anyone who asks.

Remember, too, that Romeo has been with DJI for six years. That’s a period of time when what we now call an industry was still taking baby steps. He recognized the role drones could play in the public safety sector before it was really starting to embrace them. And then he pushed, part advocate, part evangelist, part technologist, to help those in the sector see the use-case scenarios of these new machines — to show them how these could help carry out a multitude of tasks.

What’s more, you never got the sense that Romeo was doing this for the purpose of selling product. He was doing it because he believes — and it’s clearly true — that these tools can help those in the public safety sector carry out their work more safely and efficiently. In our view, he’s always been the unofficial #dronesforgood spokesperson.

Romeo Durscher accepts award on behalf of DJI at Unmanned Systems Canada Conference. Photo: Scott Simmie

Just as important, but far less visible, is the work Romeo carried out acting as a messenger between those who use DJI’s products – and the company itself. As much as Romeo likes to share information, he also likes to soak it up. And in conversations with those in the public safety sector over the years, he’s gathered a lot of feedback on features those professionals like — and those that they wish were on drones.

Influenced product design

That feedback was taken straight back to Shenzhen and has directly influenced the final version of many Enterprise drones. The Mavic 2 Enterprise, with its options of thermal imaging, a loudspeaker, and a bright light, owes much of its heritage to Romeo Durscher. He felt strongly that the bones of the consumer version could be adapted for an Enterprise drone. In fact, its modular design with swappable payloads was a likely the first of its particular breed, and a testament to Romeo’s vision. (Word is, Romeo wanted even more capabilities on this machine.) He’s also been involved with the development of other DJI solutions and even third-party products, including the M200, M300, Epson Moverio AR glasses, and more.

It’s a great example of how one person with a clear grasp of use-case scenarios and industry requirements has truly helped shape the Public Safety Sector — and the now commonplace products it deploys.

There’s more than a little bit of Romeo in this machine, the Mavic 2 Enterprise

We asked if DJI could confirm that Romeo was moving on, and it did. North America’s Communications lead, Adam Lisberg, offered his own personal comment:

“Romeo Durscher has been a tireless advocate for DJI and for drones in public safety for the past six years,” he said. “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.”

Master educator and storyteller

On a personal note, I’ve been fortunate enough to have many conversations with Romeo Durscher over the past couple of years, mostly to gather information for stories.

Romeo is, quite simply, one of the best people at conveying information with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking. Every story has a clear narrative arc; a beginning, a middle, and an end that always ties up any loose ends (trust me, there are very few people who can do this). It takes a certain kind of brain, along with the ability to simultaneously see both the minutiae and the big picture. Having heard him present at Unmanned Systems Canada’s UC19Ottawa event and during webinars, I can tell you he puts those skills to exceptionally good use when he’s in front of a crowd.

Romeo is a rare breed — and gets bonus points for just being a nice guy.

Where is Romeo headed next?

Once we know, we’ll tell you. But he had a background at NASA prior to coming on board at DJI. And it wouldn’t surprise us if his future included robotics or space.

We can only hope it includes drones.

Because, as many will attest, there’s no one quite like him.

Did you work with Romeo? Influenced by him?

A lot of people out there have crossed paths with Romeo over the years. If you’d like to spare a word or two about his positive impact, please hit the comments!

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