By @SimonCocking. Delighted to bring you this interview with Romeo Durscher STEM Advocate, formerly part of NASA SDO, now Director of Education at @DJIGlobal flying UAVs.

Brief background about you?

I was born and raised in Switzerland, did all my education and my military service there. But I had always wanted to work on a space mission – space exploration and travel was my passion, even as a little boy. In my early twenties I decided to move to California and see what I could accomplish there. Long story short, I spent almost 13 years working on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory mission and I got to do some really amazing things. It truly was a dream come true. Since I had always enjoyed technology and anything that can fly, it was not a big stretch from remote controlled airplanes to drones. Those first platforms about 5 years ago were nothing what we are seeing today. But I quickly realized that there is so much potential in that technology and I started doing aerial photography. One thing lead to another, and after attending the Drone, Data X Conference in Ireland in November 2014, I decided to join DJI and become their Director of Education. DJI is the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial and consumer drones and through DJI I have been able to do some really powerful projects.

In my position I have set-up what Education means for DJI and the industry. It is a very big job and task as this technology is so new and we have so much educating to do. Not only do we want to provide more information and opportunities to teach about safe behavior to new pilots, but we also want to make sure that commercial companies know how to use the technology in responsible and save ways. Through education we are also changing public perception about the technology. Which is another reason why I wanted to come back to Ireland and speak at MoJo. Of course my goal also is to get the hardware and the software into the classrooms so that educators, students and researchers can utilize drones and write applications. I truly believe that this will create use cases and applications in the future that we cannot even think about just yet.

And lastly, and this is very interesting for Ireland, I am working on learning how humanitarian organizations and first responders can utilize this technology. Earlier this month we announced an important partnership with EENA (European Emergency Number Association) in Prague. Together we will be setting up four pilot test sides to learn about the needs of first responders and see how the technology can be incorporated and help their tasks. One of the pilot test sides is Donegal Mountain Search and Rescue and I am very excited to be working with them over the next several months.

We take education serious and I truly believe through education we will accomplish major milestones with the technology.

What inspired you to speak at MoJo?

I have done some really great projects in Ireland and thanks to the semi-annual Drone Data X conference, which alternates between Ireland and Silicon Valley, have made some wonderful contacts and friendships. I really enjoy the forward thinking approach Ireland has and our EENA/DJI partnership brings a very interesting test program to Ireland. Learning how first responders, like Donegal Search and Rescue, can utilize the technology, will be a very fascinating experience.

Why it will be helpful for people to attend. What will they get out of it?

Mobile technologies have just changed the way we see our world, the way we interact with each other and the way we share information. MoJo brings together a very collective and interesting group of speakers and panelists with a very wide level of expertise. Learning about various applications, listen to how experts are utilizing all this new technology is very inspiring.

Why is the drone / UAV sector now such an exciting field?

It’s new technology. It’s technology that not only is letting us see our environment from a different perspective, but it’s technology that has a lot of power and possibilities. What started out being a great tool for hobbyists, has really transformed into business opportunities. We are seeing real-life applications in so many different industries; from aerial photography/videography, to real estate, inspection, precision agriculture to civil protection projects. With new technologies always come questions and concerns and that leads to discussions. That’s a very important step in the process of accepting new technology.

What should Irish companies do to continue to be successful in the drone industry?

There are many great ideas coming out of Ireland and I have seen some really good success stories within Ireland but also from companies which have come to Silicon Valley. What I truly enjoy is how so many people within the industry are working together and together creating solutions and opportunities. One perfect example is Coptershop Ireland and iFly Technologies. Coptershop started out being a DJI dealer. Through their hard work and ideas they started to branch out and added iFly Technology to the team. Now they are not only providing platforms, but also offer ground school training, so people can learn about aviation laws, they certify people on behalf of the IAA to get their permission for flying in class C airspace. Copthershop itself does a DJI Drone School, where they train specifically on DJI products, including maintenance tips and tricks. And through all of that they have managed an insurance deal with Drone Cover Ireland; They are a drone and camera insurance company and they offer discounts to drone operators who go through iFly Technologies ground school and further deductions when they do the testing.

Who has inspired you?

There have been many inspirational people. From Adobe’s Russell Brown, who has really taken this technology and started to create beautiful art, to aerial photographers like Peter Cox, who is from Ireland. Seeing what he is capturing from the air truly makes me want to become a better photographer. Then there is Philip McNamara who is the force behind Drone Data X; he is working so very hard to get people within the industry together and to inspire players to work together, to explore opportunities in both Ireland and Silicon Valley. People like that inspire me to work harder, they make me want to create better aerial photography and they motivate me to reach out and work on projects together with other entities.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?

Drone technology has come long ways in the past couple of years and we are starting to see some really incredible applications. in my opinion we have only scratched the surface of the iceberg and over the next few years we will be seeing improved upgrades to both hardware and software. And we will continue to have dialogues on many levels. This is all very exciting and will provide us with many learning experiences.

Where can people see / listen / read more about you?

Whenever I can I do aerial photography and videography projects. I share some of my work from all over the world on Instagram; – I also use Twitter to update on what’s going on at https://twitter.com/romeoch

I also try to share tips and tricks on my website: http://www.visual-aerials.com


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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