Romeo Durscher, VP of Public Safety at open source drone platform Auterion is a drone industry hero, paving the way for drone use in emergency response and public safety. In a DRONELIFE Exclusive interview from the floor of AUVSI’s Xponential 2022, Durscher says that an open source drone platform like Auterion’s is all about giving manufacturers the opportunity to innovate, giving customers the widest range of choice, and ultimately improving the entire workflow of commercial drone use.
And as countries around the world become more concerned with security, says Durscher, open source offers unmatched levels of transparency and safety.
Auterion takes the most widely developed open source drone platform and makes it easy for manufacturers to use. It’s an efficient system: with many participants from around the world, open source code develops more quickly than code developed by any one company.
“There is nothing new about open source, but it’s new in the robotics industry,” says Durscher. “In the open source world, what we see is that there are over 10,000 contributors working on great problems and creating solutions. It’s tremendously fast – we can have solutions to problems in a very short period of time. We take that code and make it usable and user friendly.”
The approach also ensures total transparency in the development process. “Society sometimes mistakes open source as unsafe, because it has the word ‘open,’” says Durscher. “But it’s actually safer, because everyone can see what is being done. We are adding new layers of security.”
Security is important. For Auterion, however, security is an accepted benefit – the real challenge is to increase the ROI of commercial drone programs, by shortening the steps in the workflow and providing customers with as many choices as possible to meet their needs.
It’s the basic concept behind the Android operating system. Android phones have a similar user experience, regardless of the manufacturer: which means a shorter learning curve when you switch hardware. Any applications can be used across systems: and every phone uploads easily to popular social media channels.
Auterion wants to help create that same functionality in the drone industry. “We’re trying to build an ecosystem of drone manufacturers and payload manufacturers that can easily integrate through known standards,” Durscher explains. “As we grow the ecosystem, the next step will be the data workflow.”
“In 2022, most people are still moving data on USB memory sticks. If that was the case with smart phones, we’d have no Instagram influencers – it’s way too many steps. It has become an accepted practice in the drone industry, but it’s not scalable. Now, we’re working on connecting our robotics, and connecting to our workflows. This isn’t new and it is not a fantasy, because we’re already doing this on our smart phones.”
That automatic connection of drones and workflows represents a huge increase in value for enterprises, Durscher points out.
“Let’s say that we have a bridge inspection outside of a city. The drone operator is flying the drone, and the inspector is in the office. The inspector could direct the drone operator to take a closer look at something as he’s flying, communicating in real time: instead of processing data off of an SD card and sending the operator back out to get more information.”
“Open source enables you to get actionable data from an image by connecting the entire workflow: capturing the data, transferring it to a different location, and feeding it into whatever software you are using to get insights. The open source is key to making the ecosystem work.”
There’s a big industry that shares the Auterion point of view. From a handful of integrators, Auterion has grown to hundreds in the last year and a half alone. Drone manufacturers can leverage the open source drone platform to go to market faster, with fewer development resources. Payload manufacturers developing to the same standards are able to produce a hardware agnostic sensor or accessory, which gives customers more flexibility.
“We’ve put focus on having choices – and we make these tools available not just to one camera manufacturer, but any manufacturer. More drones, more payloads, and more accessories – that really gives customers options.”
The Future of Open Source Development
The possibilities are endless for interconnected systems as the open source ecosystem and opens standards continue to develop. From operating a single type of drone, Durscher says that as regulations evolve to allow it, operators will be able to fly multiple types of aircraft simultaneously. “As we are continually pushing this open standard approach, we’re seeing operators able to use the same ground controller and flight software for many different types of vehicles,” says Durscher. “You can deploy a multirotor, a fixed wing, and a ground robot from the same place – and now you have 3 different data streams. This is the future. One operator to many units is the way that we will scale.”
Multiple vehicles is just one new application – the future is wide open to new ideas.
“We are really now starting to see what having open source means,” Durscher says. “We are just scratching the surface.”
“World events have brought about a tremendous mind shift – and with that shift comes education. At Auterion we want to help educate and demonstrate to the industry the impact that open source has for end users and for manufacturers. Open source is faster to market and offers more efficient use with less training, and a deeper integration with existing workflows: which means a higher ROI and a safer deployment.”
Read more about Auterion:
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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