UAV Deployments in COVID-19 Response

Early Lessons Learned in the US through the Disaster Relief Program

10 AM PDT, Wednesday, April 29, 2020

How are drones being used during the novel Coronavirus pandemic in the US? The DJI Disaster Relief Program has equipped 43 American public safety departments in 21 states with 100 DJI drones, as well as batteries, accessories and priority support, to help them respond most effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic while minimizing risk to their own personnel. Agencies are using these Mavic 2 Enterprise drones to monitor public areas, make announcements from the air, check on vulnerable populations, monitor critical locations such as testing sites, and experiment with additional functions such as delivering medical supplies. DJI is working with the departments participating in the Disaster Relief Program to collect use-case scenarios, best practices and lessons learned and share them with the greater community to ensure more efficiency, provide a platform for discussion and increase UAV value during disaster response.

Romeo Durscher, Senior Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI, and Wayne Baker, Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI, will discuss some of the use cases seen during the first month of the DJI Disaster Relief Program.

Here’s what was discussed:

  • Applications of drone technology by public safety agencies during the COVID-19 response
  • Some of the best practices and learnings from the field as agencies incorporated drones into their workflows
  • Resources that departments can utilize when building or expanding their UAV program
  • Open Q&A period

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Meet the Panelists

Romeo Durscher
Senior Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI

Romeo Durscher

Romeo Durscher is the Senior Director of Public Safety Integration, the world’s leading maker of unmanned aerial vehicles. Born and raised in Switzerland, Romeo came to DJI after 13 years of working at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory where he did project management, education and public outreach. He’s an industry expert advising and educating first responders, humanitarian organizations, industries, governments and individuals on the beneficial use, incorporation, and safe integration of DJI hardware and software to their missions.

The past several years Romeo has worked on various first responder and humanitarian projects to gain insight into the needs and challenges of fire fighters, search and rescue personnel, law enforcement and special ops, as well as humanitarian organizations. Romeo has deployed to large scale disasters as part of a Public Safety UAV Task Force, such as the:

  • October 2017 Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa (at the time most destructive fire in California history; 5,600+ structures and 22 lives lost),
  • August 2018 Carr Fire in Redding (at the time the 6th most destructive fire in California history; 1,600+ structures and 8 lives lost),
  • November 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise (the most destructive fire in California history and the most expensive natural disaster in the world in 2018; 18,800+ structures and 85 lives lost). 

Romeo has actively participated in real-life search and rescue scenarios, has used drones during live fire training exercises, active shooter and SWAT mission exercises, has observed first responder processes, and has worked with humanitarian organizations on collecting pre and post-disaster data by means of drone.

Wayne Baker
Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI


Wayne Baker is a 26 year veteran of the fire service and recently retired after 10 years as the Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Joshua. Throughout his career he consistently sought out new technology that could save the lives of the public as well as public safety personnel. Over the past five years he operated UAS on numerous fires, rescues incidents, assisted on law enforcement operations, as well as disaster response. He serves as one of the founding members of the North Central Texas Public Safety UAS Response Team (PSURT) with whom he has deployed to such disasters as Hurricane Harvey and most recently the Dallas Tornado Incident of October 20, 2019.


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