The Top 7 Drone Visionaries in 7 Commercial Markets – Emergency Response & Public Safety

We’ve highlighted many of the different ways that drones are being utilized by emergency response and public safety officials in a variety of situations and locations, but the ways in which the technology is making a difference are growing by the day. We’ve explored what it means to integrate drones into state and local government agency operations, how paramedics in Canada are using drones to operate BVLOS as well as why the words “follow the drone to safety” just might become a new standard in the space. Safety is often the number one issue that stakeholders talk about when it comes to the value drones can enable, and that value is especially evident in the emergency response and public safety sectors, where drone technology is literally saving lives.

To highlight how this value is being created, we’ve put together a list of 7 drone visionaries who are working in this field along with a bonus visionary whose interest goes beyond this specific application of the technology. Of course, all of the people on this list have worked in and are focused on a variety of industries and markets, which is just part of the reason that this list should simply be the starting place for anyone intent on discovering all of the people that are making a difference in this sector and the drone industry as a whole. If you’d like to learn more about these visionaries, you can discover the sort of insights some of these folks and plenty more will be looking to share at upcoming industry events.

To see all of the visionaries in our 7 commercial drone markets, click here.

 

Douglas Spotted Eagle

Who is he?

Douglas Spotted Eagle is the Founder and Director of Education & Training Programming at Sundance Media Group. He is also a key consultant for various companies within the UAV industry, offering training and speaking engagements on UAV topics. A well-known musician and a world-traveled speaker/instructor, Douglas now focuses his energy and experience within the UAV/sUAS industry.

How is he making an impact?

The training programming that Douglas organizes and leads through Sundance Media Group brings him all over the United States to help stakeholders in a variety of industries get a better understanding of how they can and should be looking to adopt drone technology. Public safety implementation of UAS is one of his areas of expertise, but he also focuses on commercial and infrastructural UAV applications, UAV risk management, night UAS flight and aerial security systems to ensure pilots clearly understand the FAA regulation. Appointed as a Safety and Training Advisor in the aviation world, he is a risk management/mitigation subject matter expert and has a unique ability to help organizations understand what it means to leverage UAV technology safely and sensibly.

What’s on the horizon?

“As more UAS are implemented as force-multipliers in public safety, hardware and software are becoming more use-specific as opposed to generic uses of off-the-shelf offering,” said Douglas. “As-built systems are frequently modified by value-added distributors and resellers, as we see manufacturers beginning to see the larger picture. The same concept holds true in construction (which is somewhat similar to several public safety applications), and other verticals. As we see the FAA and standards organizations like CompTIA and AUVSI struggle to bring training and operational standards into this industry, we’ll see manufacturers ( particularly US manufacturers ) offering greater influence on the growth and application of UAS in enterprise.”

 

Gene Robinson

Who is he?

Gene Robinson manages RPFlightSystems, RP Search Services, and is the director of operations at Drone Pilot Inc, which all serve by supplying technology services for Search and Recovery, Emergency Response, and Law enforcement operations.

How is he making an impact?

Gene is the brain behind the Spectra Flying Wing drone, which he has used for over 4000 hours in various Search and Rescue (SAR) missions around the globe, including Mexico, Africa, Jamaica, and Mongolia along with 30 states in the union. He has directly helped in the recovery efforts of numerous missing people and has proven the utility of the technology in this field. Additionally, he continues to put on multiple day courses and sessions throughout the country for various state agency administrators. These efforts help officials understand how they can and should be leveraging drones.

Last year, after Hurricane Harvey, Gene spent 19 straight days deploying drones to help pick up the pieces for people in the areas of Corpus Christi, Rockport and Houston in the aftermath of the storm. Additionally, he was one of the finalists of AUVSI XCELLENCE Humanitarian Award.

What’s on the horizon?

RPFlightSystems is currently working on three new drone platforms: the Aerohawk, the Vigilant C2, and Greyhawk. The Aerohawk is a large payload platform made for Gas or Electric propulsion, and is in the 55 lbs class range, designed for staying aloft for long duration flights. The Greyhawk is in flight testing phase and the company plans to have it ready for shipment soon.

 

Harold Schapelhouman

Who is he?

Harold Schapelhouman is the Fire Chief of Menlo Park Fire Protection District (FPD). He has been with the Fire District since June of 1981 and has held a variety of positions. That experience, as well as the various National incidents he has taken part in, including the World Trade Center Collapse and the recovery of the Columbia Space Shuttle Astronauts, Harold has an extensive background and experience in Emergency Response & Search and Rescue situations.

How is he making an impact?

Menlo Park FPD has been using drones since 2014, and in November 2017, DJI formalized its ongoing collaboration with the fire department. By designating the agency as a Solution Development Partner, Menlo Park FPD is dedicated to expanding the use of drones as reliable tools in emergency preparedness, response and post-incident missions. The differences the technology can make has allowed the department to become recognized as a pioneer around what it means to use drones when responding to fires and other emergencies.

In March 2018, together with DJI, the department unveiled and tested DJI’s Zenmuse XT2, a revolutionary tool for Fire and Rescue Operations in smoky conditions because it can see objects previously not visible by the human eye.

What’s on the horizon?

As a DJI’s Solution Development Partner, Menlo Park FPD will continue to test customized solutions developed by DJI for the public safety sector. All of it is part of their pioneering work to learn how best to use drones to protect lives and property.

“Our partnership and collaboration with DJI is helping to lead the way when it comes to advancements that directly benefit public safety and real-world fire and rescue operations”, Chief Schapelhouman said. “We participated in a brainstorming session with the lead engineers from their headquarters, we would tell them what we wanted the drone to do and they would write it down and say – we can do that! I’ve been in the Fire Service for 37 years and not only do they follow through, they make it actually work which is what sets them apart.”

 

Jack Wu

Who is he?

Jack Wu is the Co-Founder & CEO of Nightingale Security, a company that provides 24/7 Robotic Aerial Security for corporations, using real-time aerial surveillance cameras and data-gathering sensors.

How is he making an impact?

With an interest in Tactical Intelligence Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR), Wu found out that drones could fill in a gap in perimeter defense. Sometimes, keeping situational awareness of a specific site is impossible for a human guard. However, Jack thinks drones are capable of anything related with monitoring and reporting. By using a drone, a base station, and a fleet management software, Nightingale enables autonomous security operations over a fixed location.

Earlier this year, Nightingale won ESX’s Innovation Award within the drone category.

What’s on the horizon?

Jack thinks the future will bring more intelligent drones, because more data will be collected, and that will enable security companies to be more familiar with a specific location and help identify anomalies.

“We’re going to start seeing some application specific AI’s,” Jack said. “That’s going to start to develop within the physical security space, not just for drones, but robots in general.”

 

Matthew Sweeney

Who is he?

Matthew Sweeney is the CEO and Co-Founder of Flirtey, the first drone delivery service in the world. Flirtey’s mission is to save lives and improve lifestyles by making delivery instant for everyone.

How is he making an impact?

Matthew comes from a family of bridge builders and teachers, which he claims gave him a unique perspective in the drone industry. This is why he founded Flirtey in 2013, and pushed towards becoming the first drone delivery service in the world.

In 2015, in collaboration with NASA Langley Research Center, Flirtey completed the first FAA-approved drone delivery on U.S. soil. In 2016, the company completed various first fully-autonomous delivery missions with Domino’s, 7-Eleven, and Johns Hopkins. In January 2017. Flirtey raised $16 million in Series A funding from top Silicon Valley investors, and in October 2017 it announced a partnership to launch the first automated external defibrillator (AED) drone delivery service in the U.S.

What’s on the horizon?

In October 2017, Matthew mentioned in a TED Talk that “the next major step is for us to work with regulators to open the skies” and bring this type of services to everyone. He wants to build a future where seeing “an ambulance drone in the air is as common as seeing an ambulance on the road today”.

 

Richard Davis

Who is he?

Richard Davis is the Assistant Fire Chief at Austin Fire Department (AFD). During the course of his 25 years in AFD, he has managed several divisions, including Recruiting, Human Resources, Operations, Fire Prevention/Investigations and Fire Training. He was instrumental in the efforts AFD is the first major metropolitan fire department in the country to obtain authorization to operate UAVs in the national airspace.

How is he making an impact?

Chief Davis is the founder of the Robotic Emergency Deployment (RED) Team RED Team, the first fire department robotics program in the country. He has made an active effort to figure out how drones, as well as other unmanned robotics systems, can impact their ability to enhance firefighter safety and the effectiveness of their emergency response capabilities. The RED Team has moved from the department’s special projects section into its wildfire division.

His efforts in building the RED Team were recognized by the Texas Fire Chiefs’ Association, which awarded him the Lone Star Achievement Award for establishing an innovative and progressive program that enhances a community’s fire and life safety service delivery. In addition, he was recognized as a Route Fifty Navigator Finalist in the category of “Department Leadership”.

What’s on the horizon?

Chief Davis has defined how drone technology can make sense for the AFD, but being able to help others create similar efficiencies and save lives is a new focus for him.

“Currently, we are working on a draft agreement to use our UAV technology with another city department in Austin,” Chief Davis mentioned in a recent interview. “They will provide us with funding for purchasing more UAV equipment and we will provide them with visuals of their infrastructure, while at the same time providing our team members flight training time.”

 

Romeo Durscher

Who is he?

Romeo Durscher is the Director of Education and Public Safety Integration within DJI. He acts as a global ambassador for the safe and effective use of drone technology, which can mean anything from helping the United Nations handle safety challenges in the Maldives to exploring caves in Vietnam.

How is he making an impact?

“Through working with public safety officials and deploying on missions with them, I’VE gathered plenty of helpful information and lessons learned”, Romeo said “Doing needs assessments within fire and rescue services, as well as disaster response and law enforcement, let us create better hardware and software solutions for public safety entities.”

Over 2 years ago, Romeo started DJI’s partnership with the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) that created four pilot test sites in Europe. His focus also widened to include software solutions, like DroneSAR, an app increasingly used by search and rescue teams and has won several high visibility awards. He has also been involved with FirstResponse by Edgybees, which is designed to enhance the situational awareness of pilots and commanders.

What’s on the horizon?

Romeo thinks “drones are here to stay and will become an increasingly integrated tool for firefighting, hazmat, search and rescue, law enforcement and emergency medicine”.

Romeos work will help the company to continue to work closely with various public safety entities. Right now, together with EENA and Black Channel, DJI is designing a two-arm study to gather validated data about the use of drones during search and rescue and compare it to search and rescue without a drone. As a testament to that, the company released an updated “More Lives Saved” report, which documented 65 people rescued by drones in one 12-month period.

 

BONUS VISIONARY: Randy Goers

Who is he?

Randy Goers is a city planner, strategist and the host of the 3-years-old Drone Radio Show podcast. Each episode of his show is packed with interesting and educational information while also providing listeners with insight that allows them to that their interest in drones to the next level.

How is he making an impact?

Through the Drone Radio Show podcast, Randy shares stories about drones and the people that use them for business, fun and research. He has connected with countless luminaries that are making an impact in a variety of sectors across the drone space. Whether it’s discussing how the IPP will advance the use of drones with Earl Lawrence of the FAA or talking through what it will mean to create a UTM system with PK from NASA or documenting “stories of the drone” with Sally French, the interviews Randy has pulled together are as entertaining as they are informative.

The episodes he’s conducted with experts in this sector hint at the depth listeners can experience on his show. Interviews with Mike Uleski from the Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety Department as well as a company that is providing First Responder Drone training are especially revealing when it comes to defining how this technology can literally save lives.

What’s on the horizon?

Since the podcast launched over 3 years ago, there have been over 425,000 downloads, which means and it’s only a matter of time before the podcast hits 1 million downloads. Upcoming episodes will see Randy connect with experts that reveal that much more about the difference drones are making in a variety of markets.

 

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About the Author

Technology in general makes João Antunes tick, but the specific ways it has created and changed the landscape in IT, gaming and computers ignited curiosity that’s turned into a passion for him. As the son of a journalist writing about how these industries have emerged and evolved, he has an incredible perspective when it comes to understanding the kind of disruption new technologies can create in a given space. He’s committed to showcasing what that disruption will mean for professionals as they work to utilize brand new pieces of hardware, software, systems and processes.

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