#032 – Drones For: Good, Search and Rescue, and Enterprise with DJI's Romeo Durscher

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podcast that's p80 re0 n.com / drones podcast thanks a bunch back to the show welcome to commercial drones FM the podcast that explores the commercial drone industry the people who power it and the concepts that drive it I'm your host Ian Smith hey everybody and welcome to commercial drones FM we've got a very special guest today one romeo durscher who is the director of education at DJI so today I'm sitting at the DJ I san mateo office with mr. durscher thank you so much for joining the show today Romeo Ian it's great to be on the show this is going to be fun this is gonna be a lot of fun I've been really anticipating this I remember reaching out to you pretty much in the very beginning of the podcast I was like I gotta have you on the show will you do it you said yes but then inevitably business gets really busy so thank you so much for for making the time now better late than never for the audience who's listening and people who might not know you maybe you can give a little bit of an introduction to yourself you know you work at DJ I director of education what is your background and maybe you can tell us how that kind of got you here today where we're sitting yeah absolutely and you know this is going to be somewhat of a storytelling session here so I'm really excited well let's see you may have detected an X and already so I was born and raised in Switzerland so that's what the CH stands for right that's right Confederacy own Helvetica I've got at Switzerland and you know as a kid I always wanted to work in space science I wanted to be an astronaut I mean like every other kid at Switzerland you know there's not much happening in space we're not really sending rockets to to space we do however have a Swiss astronaut who fluid multiple times so he was like my big hero and I wanted to be an astronaut and so my eyes were always fixed on some day moving to the United States well when I was like six or seven years old my my mom and my brother they took me to Disneyland in LA and I fell in love with California all right so let's move forward I and sometime in the Swiss military because we have mandatory military service and I thought why not be a military pilot make sense you know astronaut pilots not I go together well I got disqualified because of motion sickness hmm all right so I decided well you know I may still be able to become an astronaut so let's just move to California so I did when all else fails just moved to California leave everything behind leave all the good chocolate behind go to California so I did and that was in 1997 and I came to the US and shortly thereafter I finally got an opportunity to work on a space mission and I was like totally excited because this was you know my big dream come true and I ended up spending 13 years working on this NASA space mission and throughout that time I really got to see some cool technology here in Silicon Valley of course the hub of Technology and an Alton space signs a lot of great great great futuristic technology and had always loved flying airplanes so you know I started flying remote controlled airplanes and at the time i actually bought a house in vegas and a telecommute it back and forth and right outside my house there is the the Willie McCool airfield and Willie McCool was one of the astronauts who sadly perished on februari first 2003 on on Columbia during re-entry and so you know these are all these little signs that you know I'm doing the right thing you know I'm flying airplanes on a you know airfield that was named after an and NASA astronaut and what else is in store for me hmm well around that time my very best friend Mark Johnson who does forensic analysis and always had the latest technology called me up and said Romeo you got a common see what I just bought all right I went over to his house and I was like six years ago I went over to his house and there's this crazy looking machine with propellers and it looked like a UFO totally I've never seen anything like it like where did you get this it's like I bought it in from China and let's go fly and like you know how to fly this thing is like now is there a manual is I'm know alright so we went to the park we had no idea we had absolutely no idea because a year is this that was our six years ago so 2011 roughly roughly 2010 2011 and so we went out to the park and there were also no YouTube videos at the time because this this really didn't catch on until you know a year to you later so we were trying to figure out how this thing works and we got it to work we got it to actually spool up and take off and then we were trying to figure out how do we get it back down in one piece it was going all over that park and it was the most craziest experience ever but it was so cool because you had this device that in actuality could just hover alright moving a little bit forward so funny today is Friday the 13th and in my facebook memory from four years ago I just today saw that we were using the Phantom one and we modified it we put a little pinhole camera on it and I'm wearing these ski goggles that we put a monitor inside and we were flying fpv four years ago for the very first time on a phantom one I just saw the picture this morning when I woke up yea though that was a good one it was so funny cuz I mean if you think about it for years ago yeah that was like there was no fpv for I mean I can't even imagine how you guys rigged that together but yeah that's you know we we just we bought technology and we started playing around with it and we started helping others to to do the same to learn through us because there were no tutorials there were no manuel's and if there was a manual i was in chinese so those were the early days but boy was it fun and then once we realized that we can put a camera on that platform I was I was amazed I was truly amazing i started doing aerial photography because i hate video editing i hate it with a passion did you have a photography hobby experience or anything previous to aerial photography yeah I you know it's like your everyday photographer that you know somebody in your family always thinks that you take the best pictures Romeo you should go to our party and take the pictures and then you end up doing it and then of course you know somebody gets married and they're like Romeo you should come and take picture and so it was just more of a hobby but then when I started to see how I can rediscover my surrounding from just 50 or 100 feet above I was totally intrigued and so I started learning more about aerial photography and at that time I also met Russell Brown from Adobe and Russell if you don't know him he is the master of Photoshop and we went out flying together and we would then create these panoramas and that's something that had never been done before because it's extremely difficult to do an aerial panorama you can maybe do it out a helicopter but certainly not out of an airplane were you guys doing these pan-arab these you know initial aerial panoramas without gimbals on the aircraft yes yes we with with the GoPro camera at the time and you didn't know what you were shooting because you had no no real life feet back until we then installed little camera or little video transmitters on that fat the GoPro camera footage to goggles or two monitors but that was you know months down the line and verse we were shooting blind and so one thing led to another and mark and I decided in in 2013 that we would take a month off and we would travel with our phantom ones to Europe and the whole purpose of the trip was to see if this technology could replace your everyday hand help photo camera in essence would a drone be a great tool for vacation photography you guys took at this upon yourselves just kind of like a discovery yeah yeah so we rented a house in the province in southern France and we decided all right in the morning we're going to go fly we're going to do sunsets sunrises and sunsets and in the middle we're going to go wine tasting and napping it's like perfect you know that sounds amazing it is of course at the time there was no rule 48 hours between you know throttle to bottle so we were wine tasting and then we would go fly again and we visited some spectacular locations and what I'll personal earned was that people on the ground were fascinated by this they had never seen these type of drones I mean we're talking about 2013 that was really really early on hmm and so we became almost like ambassadors and entire villages kids would come and stand around us and watch us and then we would show them the images and they were just as blown away as we were in the beginning so through all of that I really got gotten into aerial photography and i started doing very different things with it you know sometimes abstract sometime long exposure i tried so many different things and as technology got better and camera technology get better we just did so much creative stuff mmm so how how did i end up a DJ I while I I never really thought I would have a better job or a more interesting job than working on a NASA space mission I mean that's pretty darn cool if you're a geek and so when when I realized well there may be an opportunity at DJ I especially after I came back from a drone conference in Ireland and I submitted a report to DJ I saying hey it's very evident to me that you need a Department of Education that helps with not only educating users on how to use the technology safely and smartly but also help change public perception not so much in Europe but here in the United States because at the time when you said drone people thought the worst mmm and my proposal to DJ I was favorably taken and I NSN's was offered a position and so here now I had to make a decision after almost 13 years would I leave you know the NASA space science environment and go over to this you know Chinese company that makes these amazing products but I don't really know much about all of this I decided you know now is the time let's do it and so came over here and I started Department of Education and up and I outlined several layers of Education and there was the layer of you know helping new customers with tips and tricks on how to use the technology safe led to working with commercial entities changing public perception through education to getting the technology into academia so students and researchers can use it and can come up with new ways of using the technology and and creating new applications and I also added at the time the humanitarian and first responder areas into education because I had already envisioned that someday this technology will help save lives but at the time the venom to phantom 3 the platforms were not quite where I thought they needed to be to really go aggressively after that segment but then with the with the introduction of light bridge on our phantom lines that changed everything game does that I think that's one of the I guess people don't realize how I think important that technology is for the modern drone operations of today I mean it's so effective and it works so well that you don't even really know that it's there but if you compare it to the previous methods of the Wi-Fi connection I mean oh my goodness that was never I mean when you have something flying away and you're trying to get a little bit further than 50 to 100 feet then it just becomes a lot more unreliable so cool so light bridge camera came along and changed things absolutely that was that was a big big game-changer at the time and of course then also camera technology became better the moment we moved away from you know a fish I type of view to a more narrow to a more undistorted view you can now we were able to use it in different ways so things moved along and I first focused also on helping with education of aerial photographers you know creating workshops and i did a several workshops out in santa fe at the santa fe photographics workshops teaching safe flying and aerial photography and that was a so much fun because you know the artistic side of of this technology especially photography is sometimes not as much put in in that in the limelight as it should everybody knows about the videos and you create all these cool videos from all over the world but the vid the images you don't always see so I had a lot of fun but then I started focusing more on using the technology or trying to learn how to use the technology in first responder environments and that to me was like wow we can actually help save lives we can help save properties and moreover we can help keep the ground crews more safe hmm and that that to me it was just ok I gotta learn more so that brings us to then drones for good what is drones for good I mean obviously you kind of just described it but I guess well I think maybe the the proof is in the pudding for this so you've done a variety of super interesting missions I've had the pleasure of listening to to some of the stories behind them and this is one of the other reasons why I wanted you on the show so bad was to be able to share those with the listeners as well so maybe you can tell us about some specific missions I think we have about three or four we want to talk about maybe you can start off with the European emergency number association first responder project tell us a little bit about that yeah that that's a fantastic project that we started it in in the very late stages of 2015 mainly to really understand what are the needs of first responders if they had a drone how would they use it and not only how would they use it but how would the data flow work and how would they integrate it into their current procedures and you know it's easy to say well just go to a fire station and drop a drone off and let them use it but there is so much more complexity behind it and so we wanted to study that we wanted to get a much better understanding and at that time the environment here the FAA environment with all the regulations were not optimal so I looked over to Europe and I said you know what it's much much easier over there let's partner with ena the European emergency number association and what is that is that like a 911 or something or exactly so in essence it's at 112 throughout the European countries and this is a nonprofit organization that an NGO that is trying to improve first responder services by bringing very a variety of different stakeholders together and provide solutions to the needs of first responders in all those various European Union countries and it it was a it was a real natural fit for both DJI and ena to to work together on this and the interest had already been there so we partnered up and we announced the partnership and said okay we are looking for four pilots test sites in Europe and we got 45 applications from a variety of different countries all over Europe fire search-and-rescue law enforcement medical and so we we picked four locations and the whole idea was we're going to work with those four locations on provide platforms and then studying how they integrate the platform how they use it what do they do with it what data are they looking for and then get their feet back get their suggestions and try to improve upon not only our hardware but come up through our sdk solutions that really help them hmm interesting yeah that was that's great and and and so that kind of did that then pave the way I mean that was like one of the initial projects to really understand okay here's a tool let's find out how you use it so you took a very pragmatic approach documented and everything will kind of pivot over to something okay so this is voice you know audio only but this project that we're going to talk about next is is really fascinating to behold um it's from what I understand it's one of the largest cave systems in the entire world so you went on a project with ABC's Good Morning America inside some caves some huge beautiful caves very lush green environment wet you know slick moist kind of rocks I mean you can kind of feel the humidity when you look at these videos and pictures in Vietnam in this cave system and tell us a little bit about that I mean what was the purpose and and what did you find I mean there's gotta also be some operational complexities when operating I mean and you by the way you were flying drones in this huge cave system yeah this was you know I still think this project was way ahead of its time we're talking about April of 2015 when we went out on the first trip to sound on the world's largest cave system and it's in central Vietnam out in the nowhere in the National Park and it was only discovered in the late 90s so it it's this amazing oasis it wasn't even discovered like people didn't know it existed no no I and not even then the scientists have not yet gone through the entire cave it's that large and so ABC good morning america did this segment were they wanted to show some hidden treasures of the world and using drones and not only using drones and taping the footage but doing live TV from the drone from wherever they were to the studio in the United States in New York to the homes in America hmm a huge undertaking and the first one was in iceland with eric eric chang and and he was flying over an active volcano and then a couple months later the idea was to go to Vietnam go to in into this cave and first of all take a look at this cave would a live TV production out of this cave out in nowhere be feasible so we went there with a small team it was just me and I had brought along a inspire and a phantom 3 inspire one inspire one at the time you venom 3 pro advanced I had the pro with me but he never made it got stuck in customs and the inspire that I brought with me got lost in transit somewhere in Hong Kong and so i arrived in vietnam with nothing though the worst nightmare i guess the worst that could happen well what happened was a series of amazing events that led us to a new dealer that had just opened up the doors to sell drones in in hanoi and they were the most amazing people to work with and they provided us with me inspire with batteries so we were able to go to the cave and i had at least an inspire with me and the day we marched through the jungle they had they found my my original inspire and they got it to the cave location and so we had a backup hmm so I felt much much better so to do this trip even if you're just a tourist you have to be in really good conditions and they're only I think a couple hundred slots available each year to go into that cave so it's it's not very touristy it's very selective and so we thought we walked through the jungle for a day just to get to the entrance of the cave and we're talking about hot humidity and it was so hot on my very first flight in Vietnam were in this native village and I wanted to take a flight and take some images of this this village it was so hot in the sunlight that the screen on my iPad cracked I was watching a crack because I was in direct sunlight and I couldn't believe my eyes did you get the shot oh I got it you can I good I had to work with it with a cracked I need for the shots anything for the shot so we get to the we get to the first cave you hang an cave and it's just it's an amazing place I'm a huge cavern sandy beach inside the cave where we were respite stint at state the night and then the next day we tracked for another day to the hangar to the Sun donkey through the caves to another cave yes Wow and a total trip I mean it's it's it's hard to describe in words so beautiful and so we got to dis on down cave and we had to rappel into the cave with all the equipment with all the food and everything and we got to the bottom and there's this beautiful river and its pitch black dark but there's this river and that was the last time we were able to wash ourselves and so it was the most beautiful swim ever and you just have like headlamps on and set up like lanterns and exactly and then we moved on and we got to the first campsite and so in there I did my very first flight and this cave is so big and it's so moist and and it's hard to explain but it has its own weather patterns in there what could you compare like the size of this cave to just so the listeners understand I mean it because you can't see the pictures will link to the pictures of course and the story and everything but like is there like a size comparison you can give well in one of the caverns you can put two 747 aircrafts that's the Boeing 747 site by side next to each other and we would have still plenty of space in another cavern that there was like probably a mile we could see a mile because there is also an opening in this in the ceiling we call dado line and house hall is the ceiling a thousand feet wow so this is just massive massive so you have that that beam of light that comes in and you have this weather patterns with fog and clouds that are moving and so I was like I gotta fly in here but you're in a cave so GPS out the window so you have to fly in Eddie mode without GPS so you know so we all get used to having the GPS and when you are not flying in gps and you're flying in a cave and you're flying in an environment where you're a mile away you can barely see your machine because it's in the fog you know and the cave fog the k fog and all you do is you just focus on your on your you know I pet that now is cracked and there's nothing and there's no return to home because there's no GPS exactly oh my goodness and the stabilization system of our game built is so good that you don't even notice that your dad your machine is drifting because of all the aerodynamics in that cave and it's just the most surreal experience will you be like recorded live during this too I mean that'll add another wrench into the complexity well luckily this was only the scouting trip to see is it even feasibly possible so from from the first campsite we went on to the second campsite and to get to the second campsite you have to cross a jungle inside the cave it's bizarro it's like you know avatar and Jurassic Park it's all in one it's just other animals down there there are animals down there that are not seen above they have different type of animals down down there and it's it's so fascinating it's just amazingly beautiful birds to a man learns as well yeah it's amazing now what did happen though between campsite one and campsite you we all got very sick and most of the ABC team stayed behind but I had to go forward because somebody from DJ I had to go and fly to see can we fly at the second campsite and I got there well and didn't feel all too bad flu but then on my way back to the first campsite I got really really sick and long story short we ended up with e.coli and it was was the roughest time to get out of the cave I'm gonna cut that so all people here they don't hear any of the beginning part about the cave or anything but long story short we got e.coli boom that's going to be a super intro and so we got out of the cave and we decided ABC decided yes we can do it we going to do it in two weeks and so what happened was we all went home to get all the equipment that was needed to make it actually happen and to recover from e coli and to make things worse so there was so much equipment we needed to bring not only from us from DG I from all the drones and thus backup drones and batteries but the technical equipment that is needed for a live TV production out of a cave inside central Vietnam unbelievable we ended up with like a hundred cases that needed to be transported goodness stimulating the local economy I imagine totally and and we got actually a helicopter that that flew us to the outside of the cave so we didn't have to do the track through the channel which was so helpful I can imagine so we found the perfect location to do the live TV broadcast from because we needed to set up a satellite dish and that had to be of course on the outside of the cave and then we had to run cable into the cave to the area where we would be doing the live TV part and from there we went back in Tucson dong to tape everything and send it to New York every now so we had runners that will go between the two caves every day every evening with SD cards so that they could be uploaded onto the computer sent via the satellite dish to the studio in New York so that the editing team could already edit pieces together it was a huge production good grief sometimes farmers are a little bit intimidated with just operating the drone above the field and doing other things on construction sites but this is something else as well it was incredible and I really encourage you to go and take a look if you just do a DJ I ABC good morning america show on google you will find a lot of amazing footage and it's really worth seeing and also hearing about the challenges I mean charging batteries in a cave you know it's we had we had these power generators and every night Ferdinand and I we were charging batteries and iPads and we had to charge everything on power generators in the dark and then of course during the live production you have to light up the cave and so we do need lights you need more power generators and the power generator loud so we had to bury them it was an amazing production and then you fly the drone and you do the live broadcast from the drone and people at home we're really able to explore this incredible area I can't wait to look at it again after we've been talking about it there is one picture that I remember just seeing with that beam of light shining down from that ceiling of the cave a thousand feet high down and I think it's either someone standing there or you can see the drone flying in the cave that yeah I'll definitely be sure to share that and maybe you will use that for the the cover of the episode photo but Wow ok so from one tropical environment to the next so maldive so you guys have done some work DJI with the Maldives and that's a really fascinating part of the world us about the Maldives I mean it's just such a such a unique formation of islands and I remember hearing this talk that you did I think it was at drones data X in San Francisco where you talked about this project but if you can give us a little rundown of what you guys wound up doing there from an operational perspective yeah so this one falls into the humanitarian category and in essence it's a project with the UNDP the united nations development program office which has a mandate to you know find new technologies in essence that can help various projects and the maldives were selected as one of the most impacted countries in the world by climate change and you without getting you know political here you cannot really debate that weather patterns are changing and they are impacting people and the people on the Maldives are very much being and will continue to be impacted by all of this there's about 1,200 islands in the Maldives and eighty percent of those islands are only three feet above sea level and so that introduces a lot of challenges when the sea level only injure Rises an inch that changes a lot of patterns erosions and floodings are much more seen now than they were in the past and so we wanted to to learn more about the situation and we wanted to introduce technology to the locals so that they can use the technology to not only study the effects but prepare for disaster and then during and post disaster use the technology to help recovery so we went on a couple of trips to to you to map islands because also what we learned was some of these islands were never really mapped there are hand-drawn maps of an island and we wanted to show them how easily you can map in Ireland with a drone and with software package like round apply for exam and then you have data and you can Reese can remap that area you know once or twice a year and compare the changes and so you're creating data sets that provide a lot of helpful information stream or useful extremely useful and then also you know in order for all of this to be really impactful you have to get the community involved in all of this so the idea is if you have a map of an island bring the people together and let them pick and choose which are the more important buildings that need to be you know either saved or maybe enhanced where does the water come from when there is a flooding is it from this side from that side and so by getting the community involved you get also buy in and they are a part of the solution and also we wanted to train the search and rescue people at the Coast Guard on how to use the technology a lot of tourists go to the Maldives to enjoy and they have seen a big increase from Chinese tourism and a lot of the Chinese visitors they don't know how to swim and they've had many incidents were Chinese tourists got lost on sea and they had to go and and look for for that missing person and there are no helicopters like I think two helicopters in the entire Maldives they have a lot of sea planes but they're used to transport tourists so the infrastructure is not really very supportive for aerial search and rescue operations yeah the most Maldives children probably learn how to swim as soon as they possibly can excited so close to the water at all times exactly so we introduced them to drones and how to use drones and we used the learnings some of the learnings that we got through the inner project to train the the Coast Guard for example how to best technically use the technology to find something that that you're looking for and then while we were there in the Maldives down the last trip in remember the day I arrived there was this huge fire on Molly Molly is the capital city of the Maldives and it's it's about two square kilometres and it's hugely populated 160 170 thousand people and the streets are narrow fire trucks cannot even really get to the location so they have to sometimes Park you know several hundred meters away from an incident and then there's hoses being laid out so they have a lot of challenges to overcome and I was there when there was a big fire I was able to get front row to observe how do they operate and I was completely amazed at how well they operated under the conditions that they you know were dealt with but having an aerial view right there where they could see how close is the fire to the next building to this side into that side that alone would have been so tremendously helpful so the next day we did a training session with the fire department and within minutes we got buy-in and we did Livefyre scenarios what it used several different platforms they used it the thermal camera to see what hot spots are and so technology like this can really help areas like Molly and the Maldives and so this this was a really really good project to do wow that is excellent I in the beginning it sounded like okay the most critical thing would be the rising sea surface but in the end there's all kinds of other infrastructure problems that they have to deal with especially due to you know high tourism just by virtue of living in such a beautiful part of our planet they have to deal with all these incredible challenges so drones for good on that mission to and so the last mission that will talk about is something that I don't think I'm very familiar with it's the black channel high altitude search-and-rescue what is this oh you had that was another really amazing one you know I grew up into its own in the mountains and so the idea was we really wanted to gather more data on how can this technology help in the mountains and now we're talking about extreme conditions are you a skier oh yes you're skier and it would do you guys have those st. Bernard's with those little wooden like barrels around their neck is there really like whiskey in there in case well they are real but of course they also got pretty commercialized hot but sorry I had to ask the question but you know you bring up a very very interesting point because when we look at mountain search-and-rescue to the change in mountain search and rescues quite amazing because it started off with people on foot going up on the mountain looking for missing people hmm then they realized well you know we could integrate a k-9 unit we could integrate a dog especially avalanches after avalanches to you know help locate so teams were set up with dogs then the helicopter came around and with the helicopter first it was just a pilot but there were several challenges because the pilot knew were to fly in all that but then when he he or she had to report a location it was more difficult to describe the location so they said okay we're going to add a search-and-rescue person on the helicopter and we're going to add a mountaineer on the helicopter because we need to find the best way to get to that person so suddenly you have a three-member helicopter search and rescue team and so it's very fascinating to see how all of this is changed has changed over the years and now we have a drone now we could potentially what we've learned through all of this have a drone in a backpack and they could deploy the drone during a search and rescue mission just to look ahead for example what's the best way to get to this location and so we decided let's go up on a glacier let's go up in into environment that is harsh high altitude low air density cold weather bad weather and see how could a drone help Mountaineers and search-and-rescue teams so we did as a test study we had three teams and team one they didn't have any technology than what's already available to them and they got a call that there's a person missing with a general location and had to go and find the person team two they got everything team one got except they also got a drone so they could during their search and rescue operation deployed the drone and and use the data to make more better decisions team three they got data that was taken an hour two hours before they went out and we prob provided them with a 3d map of the glacier data from the drone data from the drone and we provided them with with data so that they could pre-plan the search and rescue mission and then we wanted to see how these three teams stacked up against each other and here is the very interesting part the team that got the data on all of the tests they had information that was very very valuable because in their minds these Mountaineers they know their mountains they know the path to take they know you know the areas what they don't know is the conditions of the glacier so by providing them information they can quickly adjust their thinking so they would have gone from a to be a certain way after looking at the day that they said oh no no no we're going to do it differently we're going to go this way while the other two teams were going the original way so following the just the instincts first because that's all they really knew exactly so that was an interesting learning that that the drone has really moved from from a you know flying device to a data capturing device that actually influences real-time decision making and so that was that was really really interesting to see that project was challenging because it was in high altitude and on our ascent up while we were in the wall climbing up we got into a storm we experienced what many climbers experience and many scenarios start that way you get caught in the storm you almost had to get rescued and luckily we had drones with us for ya you fly them fly it's like a Lassie Come Home return to home and but but in there were a couple of times when I was in that wall and there was lightning around us and I just wanted to get back I was drenched I was wet it was called I just wanted to go back but we pushed on and I'm glad we did because it gave us a real life experiences how it is how it is for the search-and-rescue teams because they go no matter what whether they want to help they want to find people and if we as an industry can help them with tools I mean we're making a big impact how did the drones handle the high altitude I think the power to weight ratio continues to climb as technology improves but were there any issue I mean I haven't heard too many issues with people you know flying in high-density altitude locations but were there any issues with like high altitude operations that you've encountered on that specific instance yeah so we learned a few interesting things so the higher up you go the less air density you have so in essence your platforms have to work harder to keep to keep them afloat and at some point you know there's just not enough air to really you know help the platform to stay up there so we did notice that there when you come back in for landing for example you have to fly a little bit softer otherwise you can't stop hmm but what we also learned was of course the cold environment so you have a double whammy in essence you've called any of high altitude those two together really impact the platform but the more most fascinating aspect was actually the impact it has on the human being granted you know people that live in the mountains and that have grown up in the mountains and work in the mountains they're not as the high altitude sickness is not a real issue but it still impacts you and in essence you become the weakest link in all of this and it was fascinating to see there were several instances were i was watching people dude put the drone together and they couldn't get the props on because they put the props at the wrong arms something they didn't do in the valley below just all these little things yeah and even at myself and I grew up in the mountains but on the first day I could feel that I'm in high altitude and it was a little bit more difficult to focus but you know your body adjusts really really quick but in in any case during a search and rescue operation no matter if you're on them on a lake or on a river or on a on the ground or on high altitude the operator also it is in essence one of the weakest links in all of this because if you fly 20 minutes and you put a new battery in you go for another 20 minutes at some point you know you get tired you get fatigued not just a day but mentally yeah and little things start to creep up and mistakes aspects and suddenly you know you end up in a tree or something like that pilot error so they're very fascinating learnings that we got out of all of this well you have a very fascinating job Romeo I think anyone that's listening to this if they enjoy adventure then and also you know kind of being it you know you mentioned your trip with mark becoming you know in 2010 somewhat of a drone ambassador to those people but still kind of being an ambassador to the rest of the world with this technology so that is super super cool so any tips that you may have and this is a kind of a hard question because it can be taken in so many different ways but any any tips you can have for any drone operators commercially whatever who people who want to help and use drones for good you know what could they do to potentially get involved I mean any any ideas on that yeah there are several things people can do and there are a lot of things people shouldn't do and one of the first ones you should never do is if there's a fire there's an incident don't just go and fly your drone thinking you're helping because the likelihood of you not helping is much much bigger than you helping that is the excellent point I didn't even think that that was going to come up because if you're flying out there than the other people who are fighting the fire and trying to save lives can't fly exactly so first thing you should do is if you're really interested in this go to your local fire department go to your local search and rescue units make contact maybe they already have a drone maybe they have been looking at drones maybe you can provide them with information or maybe you can guide them in the right direction you're already helping by doing that that's that's one thing there are a lot of volunteer like search and rescue organizations and some of them use drones and the majority of them they work with law enforcement entities together and so maybe joining an entity like that any time you can do something that is coordinated the likelihood of you doing something good is there any time or pretty much every time you're doing something on your own you may really be interfering with what's going on so don't be the lone wolf don't do it on your own don't do it just to get a good picture or video that's that's the first and foremost yeah safety well excellent advice so let's let's switch gears here a little bit that was a really really fascinating incredible stuff I love all those stories so DJ I enterprise launched recently with the air works conference that was here in San Francisco towards the end of the year was at December maybe and what's the strategy for 4 DJI here with with this enterprise branch of the business and the air works conference where is this initiative heading it looks to me it's a lot more commercial in nature for other types of commercial operations because as we know aerial video and ography can definitely easily be commercial operations so what's going on there with DJ enterprise yeah that's a great question you know there's so much happening so we do ji we really believe that innovation and enterprise comes from you know disruptive technology that is being used in in the consumer segment in essence what we're seeing is what once was just a fun hobby is morphing into more and more commercial projects and use cases and we want a better focus on that so for example today there are over 450 drone companies here in the US alone and the majority of them actually roughly seventy-five percent of them they are using DJI platforms to do their services their businesses that could be you know from a real estate photography to inspection to agriculture and it's estimated that all of this is growing from from nine billion dollars to 120 and even more billion dollars in the next you know 34 years those are amazing numbers and more importantly we're expecting approximately 100,000 new jobs being created through this technology jobs like mine where we were there from a hardware provider job like yours that from a software provider and then all the people out there using both the hardware and the software to create something to inspect something to gather data about something so this is a huge huge opportunity and also what is happening and what we're sometimes not even taking into consideration is the ecosystem around it because you know you may need a better case for your drone because you're going to go on a you know search and rescue operation or you're going to go on a inspection out in nowhere land so you may need not only the case but you may want a particular vehicle that maybe supports you know the charging of the drone and batteries and mine for live feed TV and so all of this creates this ecosystem around the hardware and that creates other products that go with it similarly if you look at your smartphone you know the cases that come with it the apps that come with it through our SDK and we're creating applications solutions to very specific challenges problems or needs and so this is growing there's there is no question about it and we have not even touched the surface of the iceberg and now we're starting to see real use cases and real data from companies using the technology and how it has saved them from investing a time manpower or making a job easier you know that roof inspection will always be there but do we have to send up the guy on a roof mmm can we first go with a drone and then maybe if we identify issues maybe then a team has to go up on top of the roof so at DJI we have we have recognized that there is a huge potential in an industry and and the range is is huge so many different almost any industry could potentially benefit from autonomous aerial technology yeah and so in the in December we had our first DJ air works conference here in San Francisco and that was really geared towards covering the entire drone ecosystem including hardware software companies around UAV technology and it was it was very successful we had 350 attendees 14 media outlets that were covering part or all of the conference and it really got us a way to connect between us and and the users but also the users with each other and the software developers and it helped create a much better understanding of what are the needs what are some of the solutions and how can we together drive this ecosystem to the next level and part of this is like search and rescue and first responders there's a strategic element in all of this because if we can showcase that the drone is actually saving lives and properties and keeping our first responders more safe then you cannot argue with that technology so then we're also helping change how we see the technology how the rest of the population sees the technology and we can influence how the regulatory environment is being developed so we all have an opportunity to be part of this of this environment and I think that is all being incorporated into DJ enterprise mm-hmm so I think you guys announced at the conference also some new new types of hardware kind of like specialized hardware for specific cases correctly would it be safe to say that you know if you're have a very unique use case and there's a lot of action around it then it potentially DJ I could be looking to you know build specific types of hardware to solve those kinds of problems exactly exactly it's also part of the learning that we're going through because you know we don't know all the needs that are out there but if we see that people say you know I have a need for a platform that does a B and C and if we suddenly see ten people say that then we may want to think about creating an in-house solution for for that segment so by doing it that way we're gathering a lot of data and we're able to adjust our hardware to help for a certain specific tasks I'll give you a very good example you can get an off-the-shelf DJI phantom 4 and it can be used immediately for a lot of great things but maybe you have a need that is very different from mine so you may want to do mapping I may want to do search and rescue I can go on to the App Store I can download drone deploy and I can or you can do then the mapping i can download drones are which is an app that has come out of our first responder project and it will help me do search and rescue cool so the idea is if we know what the needs are we can provide solutions hmmm and if we know what the hardware needs are then we can adjust one of my favorite is the apples of just this like democratization of technology is actually thermal imagers so thermal cameras so previously you know if you look back two or three and I'm speaking specifically about the DJI and Fleur partnership and the DJI xt thermal sensor if you look back a couple years ago it's entirely totally easily possible to get a thermal camera on a drone it would fly around you could get video back but the problem is it was incredibly expensive number one you had to spend a you know at least like forty thousand bucks on like a whole platform and the price like Rises exponentially from there but the the actual user experience was never integrated enough it was always like okay cool we got this video feed and we just send it straight down to a monitor and boom that's it and now with the DJ ixt which is so powerful it's it's brought usable much more usable technology with the light bridge with the sdk into an entire package that really works and has been designed to work together and that's one of the to me one of the most exciting developments in you know some of the enterprise type partnerships that you guys have have you know brought forth it has been that that fleer and DJ I sensor technology for thermal and it can be so useful for you know as you know inspection but of course search and rescue firefighting all kinds of different things so I am excited to you know see how this develops see other types of partnerships that develop more types of hardware that are so much more easier to use by being in this nice ecosystem that people can can take advantage of so that's really cool so let's look forward know let's look backwards a little bit more actually so in the past three to five years I have this question here what one thing to you I guess I gave you my answer or one of my answers but what one thing to you in the past three to five years in the drone industry has been the most effective new technology that has come about you know this is this is a fun question in it there's not no one right answer in my opinion there were several that really really made a huge impact I mean a flight controller by itself is a marvel without the flight controller it would be so much more difficult to pull all of this off so the flight controller is definitely on top of my list then integration of light bridge into small platforms or occu sink as we have it now on on the mavic to get very little latency and a very long distance connection to to a platform that spectacular the range on it is ridiculous it is and of course you know that that right now is a little bit of a challenge too because of the you know Linus I flight regulation but you know this is temporary in my opinion at some point in not the very distant future flight beyond liner sites are going to be happening and they're going to be happening safe because of the integration of additional sensors and data so that brings me to the next item that I think has changed the environment and that's Ted sensors mmm you know the ability to start recognizing your environment and the platform reacting to those data inputs by itself which then leads me to the next item that has or is changing everything autonomous flight capabilities the fact that you can set up a ground station flight path and your machine safely execute sit that opens up so many opportunities and I am honestly excited about the present but more excited about the future because we will as a society as nations as you know everyone to come together we will figure out all the challenges that are that come with new technology I mean this is we've gone through this with the car with airplanes with the computer this is nothing new and it's good that we are cautious it's good that there are people that say but you know what about privacy what about this what about manned aircraft it's good because that makes us all think and come up with solutions that work reality is this is fairly safe technology if we look at the millions of flight hours that these machines have already provided and the success rate it's it's tremendous so I'm excited what does the future look like if I wif I only knew but one thing is clear my day you have visibility into DJ eyes product roadmap me exactly I think the future is data that's and you know we keep hearing that and what does it really mean well it means a few things one there's more data that comes into the drone through sensors and that could be you know environmental sensors like sensors that look at obstacles all around but it could also be sensors that pick up data that that you actually want for example you know has met drone that picks up gases or you know your cameras that that's data so there will be more data and with more data you can do more things and with more data you also need a different infrastructure so this is I mean there is so much that that will continue to change over the next couple of months and years and things that we have not even thought about yet that will come up so this is very fluid right now totally what is your favorite drone of all time hmm this is the last question by the way you know my favorite drone I think when you fly platforms you you kind of start building little relationships and and you start learning about the good and not-so-good of a drone and you adjust your your your flying skills accordingly I believe that my closest relationship with a drone that sounds so weird but it is i'm in love with a DJI inspire 1 i have to say the inspire one is definitely my favorite platform because I spent so much time with it I spent time with it in a cave I had to you know go through really hard i'm gonna cut that part again too long story short we got ecoli and i spent a long time of the drone in a cave it's a weird life um but if they you know you know what what else is very fascinating to me different platforms do act and react differently but for the most part the experience is the same and that's the fun part that that fascinates me when I can see somebody for the first time fly a drone and experience that that feeling of not only seeing your drone in front of you but then looking at the monitor and seeing what the drone sees that those faces are always priceless and so it doesn't matter if it's a phantom or if it's a mavic or if it's an inspire that experience that that first impression that's always the same that is an important moment I think I think as an industry we should latch on to that a little bit more and next time you get the new brand new drone and you just grab onto the controls let's try giving it over to someone else let them take the take the controls for a little bit and experience that magic and sit back cross your arms and enjoy that moment that's that's great well Romeo this by the way is the longest episode on the podcast thus far and I know we could go on for another hour if we want to were over an hour now and so I'm gonna go ahead and cut us off there it's such a pleasure to have you on I know I speak for the audience as a whole as well saying that we are very glad that you could come share all of these stories and these thoughts and will continue to pay attention close attention to your work for the audience listening you can go ahead and you can follow Romeo on Twitter at Romeo ch-charlie hotel and Instagram at visual aerials to see some of that really nice photography that Romeo has been doing and you can visit of course DJ eyes website at DJI calm and I will definitely be sharing those stories I've got links that you've sent me so I'll make sure to put those in the show notes some of the pictures those gorgeous pictures from the cave but while you're at it while you're checking out Romeo stuff go ahead and subscribe to the podcast if you like what you heard you can go ahead and you can follow the podcast as well on twitter at troons podcast and you can like us on facebook at facebook.com slash drones podcast and with that we are going to go ahead and we are gonna cut off the mics romeo thank you so much once again and thank you DJ I for hosting hosting me at the office today hopefully we can chat with you again soon absolutely thanks for having me this was a fun i NN Romeo show and I hope listeners were not too bored throughout this longest episode on record longest one ever will go ahead and break the record again someday all right everybody we're cutting off the mics take care Cheers alright so that's a wrap I really hope you enjoyed this episode one thing you can do to support the show is to visit our new patreon page and consider donating some change at patreon.com / drones podcast so go ahead and donate a buck if you're feeling it I will be forever grateful again that's patreon am calm / drones podcast over and out

Romeo Durscher is Director of Education at DJI, the world’s largest, most successful drone manufacturer. His job is one of the most fascinating in the world. Romeo acts as global ambassador for safe and effective use of drone technology. His mission takes him all over the planet—from tackling safety challenges with the United Nations in the Maldives, exploring caves in Vietnam with ABC’s Good Morning America, and pioneering drone use with mountain search and rescue teams on a glacier. Romeo and Ian speak about all of this—including DJI’s plans for their DJI Enterprise division—for a truly epic episode of Commercial Drones FM.

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