If you’ve been watching Dedrone over the past few years, Rob D’Amico’s name should ring a bell. We have worked closely with him during his time as Chief Security Officer (CSO) at 1/ST Group of Companies, which oversees events like the Preakness Stakes, and we are proud to announce that Rob has joined our Advisory Board.
Rob spent most of his career in the top echelons of federal law enforcement, serving the US government for over 35 years. He was the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI's) Legal Attaché to the US Embassy in Kabul, running all FBI operations in Afghanistan. He’s participated in some of the United States' most sensitive and highly visible investigations and operations around the world. A highly regarded member of the law enforcement and intelligence community, Rob has been awarded with both the FBI's and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's highest medals for meritorious achievement.
As he settles into his new role with Dedrone, we took the time to catch up with him and learn more about his background, what excites him about Dedrone’s work, and what he is most looking forward to.
I enlisted right out of high school into the Marine Corps. While I was at Ohio State, I was in the reserves, then commissioned and did infantry and reconnaissance. My first foray into operationalizing technology, however, was during my time with the FBI. I helped with updating a fingerprinting system back in 2007, making it possible to remotely access the database from anywhere in the world and get a response within two minutes. I also advised overseas missions that blended the military with FBI work and spent several tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. During my last time in Afghanistan, I was in charge of all FBI operations in the country; I helped to release a Canadian in Taliban custody and facilitate a deal for an Australian and US professor in exchange for Taliban people – some of the last actions completed before the drawdown deal was signed.
When I came back to the States, I asked the FBI what else I could do. They needed someone in the counter-drone unit who could bridge the technical and operational side for upper management and standardize it throughout the Bureau. That is how I ended up as the Counter-Drone Operations Chief. Even with all my technical experience, it still took me six months to get up to speed, because this is cutting-edge technology. The government did a broad test of counter-drone technology in fall of 2020, which is where I was first introduced to Dedrone.
Once I went into the private sector, I knew I wanted the best counter drone coverage and knew I needed to work with Dedrone. I sought out the company to help provide airspace security for the events I managed as CSO of 1/ST Companies.
There is no single counter-drone solution. At the FBI, we used many different solutions depending on the issue at hand, even considering controlled EMPs as a last result. What Dedrone excels at is being plug and play with its technology. Normally, you only have seconds to identify a drone as a threat and consider mitigation. If your system uses four different screens, there’s no way you have enough time to process it all. Dedrone fuses cameras, radar, RF-sensors and more into a common operating system or “Command and Control” system (aka “C2”). That single operating platform creates a true picture of what is actually out there and makes Dedrone sensor and effector-agnostic, while giving complete situational awareness to the operator. Combined with the cloud-based or on-prem/air-gapped deployment choice, it makes it easy for me to recommend Dedrone as part of my security consulting.
As more and more companies, agencies, airports and so on realize that they need to be thinking about their security in 3D – that is, include secure airspace – they will need an easy-to-integrate single counter-drone solution. Even individuals are coming to realize that drones can play a threat to their security and privacy, but the law has yet to catch up outside of video recording or Peeping Tom laws. That is where Dedrone comes in.
Although I can’t talk too much about my work at the FBI, as CSO at 1/ST Companies, I was tasked with securing events like the The Preakness. The day includes an outdoor music festival intertwined with the horse races. Nefarious drones can cause panic, steal video feeds, spook a horse and more. When I looked at the event, Dedrone came up as a complete and easy to integrate security solution.
Our initial focus was on keeping all drones out. Now events have also evolved to include friendly drones; for example, authorized drone-based cameras for capturing drone footage, and each drone has a separate pilot. Having Dedrone incorporated into our security plan enables us to whitelist the friendly drones and focus on the unauthorized drones, leading to a smoother process overall and even helping drone pilots have better awareness of their airspace.
Many companies and agencies are now aware of the need for what I call “3D Security” – that you have to look up as well as around to ensure a truly secure environment. On top of that, drones represent a big threat to privacy, too. I’ve had experiences where VIPs complained about snooping drones. With current laws, if someone is on a public road flying a drone under 400 ft, you can’t do anything unless you try for harassment or Peeping Tom grounds, and that’s hard to prove. (Even if you can get video that someone took of you in the pool, that’s not always admissible, for example.)
My work has given me a unique perspective: both as a client of Dedrone and as a user of the solution. That viewpoint is beneficial as the company continues this exciting period of growth. On top of that, I can leverage my contacts across industries to provide candid feedback on what they’re looking for to help guide business strategy in an advisory capacity. Finally, I can offer advice about what will resonate with industry decision makers in the fields I’ve worked in.
In addition to drones as tools for terrorists, privacy is an area that is only going to grow as more and more people realize that they can’t just shoot drones down. (That’s a felony.)
Right now, we’re in an era where people are throwing technology at the wall and seeing what actually works, similar to what biometrics was going through in the 2000s. As 3D security and privacy become bigger issues, however, we’ll see a maturation in the market, where companies that deliver false promises or are only focused on a segment of the solution will fall by the wayside. Dedrone has its eye on the bigger picture and on the command and control aspect, and that’s why I think the company’s future bright. I’m excited to be a part of it.
Mar 24, 2023
Mar 24, 2023
About the author
Mary-Lou Smulders is the Chief Marketing Officer at Dedrone, where she leads Dedrone's global marketing and communications team.