May 12, 2023

Why I Joined Skydio: Marcus Rossi

Marcus Rossi

Marcus Rossi

Marcus Rossi

I joined Skydio to be part of a creative, collaborative, and team-oriented company that is innovating with important new technology.  I believe the drones Skydio is building are the best in class in the world today, and I’m convinced that they are an important tool for the modern world.

I have a strong foundation for that belief: prior to joining Skydio, I was involved in modernizing the defense capabilities of America and of our allies and partners.  I’ve studied the changing trends of conflict, and the needs of defense forces from free and independent nations for the right kinds of new technology.  I’m passionate about continuing to help those who place themselves on the front lines, trying to make the world a safer place.

Background in Defense and Military Operations

I served for 23 years in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.  During those years, I deployed seven times to various combat zones, and I also participated in a variety of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance operations.

In combat, I experienced first-hand the cycle of learning, adapting, and leveraging new technologies against agile and adaptive adversaries.  As an engineer, part of my job involved working with teams of military personnel and technical advisors trying to figure out how to confront improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan that were proving to be the most deadly and effective weapon of those wars.

My Marines and I used a variety of drones  - what the military calls small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS)  - and other small robotics for intelligence, surveillance, route clearance, IED-interrogation, and patrol overwatch tasks.  We studied what worked well and what needed improvement.  Some of the new technology-enabled equipment was effective, but others could be unwieldy, or overwhelm the operator with too many tasks and priorities, adding cognitive load that undermined the ability of our personnel to make decisions and take effective actions in the high stress environment of combat.

Embracing the Era of Evolving Challenges

The battle against IEDs was just the tip of the iceberg. It opened my eyes to the full range of challenges facing militaries in the 21st Century.  Today, the world is facing a resurgence of authoritarian regimes, who are empowered by digital tools that allow them to track and control populations in ways humanity has not previously seen.

As a senior military officer, I collaborated across the joint force to conceive and drive modernization of our military capabilities to face these new threats.  Militaries, like the world at large, experience cycles of evolutionary, and sometimes revolutionary, change.  This change is usually driven either by socio-political changes in how humans live and compete with one another, or new technological breakthroughs that create new tools of warfare, which can be used for good or for ill. Both these situations are occurring today.

On the socio-political side, the world is adjusting to a new era of constant digital tracking and surveillance, with both promising opportunities and emerging threats to our health and freedom.  On the technology front, the pace of change that defense leaders must confront and deal with may be greater than at any previous time in history.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine and deep learning, quantum computing, hypersonics, 3D printing, DNA and genome research, electric weapons, and many other innovations and discoveries are bringing new dimensions to warfare and compelling defense forces to redefine approaches and methods for deterrence and defense.

Small Drones as a Multi-Level Asset for Modern Defense Strategies

Defense policy makers around the world face tough decisions, with limited budgets.  There are many tradeoffs, and few capabilities that truly span the range of military operations.  But I believe that small drones/sUAS, the type that Skydio is building, benefit free nations at every level of a healthy approach to modern defense.

In peacetime, defense forces can partner with civilian law and order agencies who use the same drones for civil order and disaster response. We can survey infrastructure and equipment to save costs in readiness.

In conflict, small drones allow men and women to remain out of harm’s way for longer periods of time while sensing and learning with tools that link to new learning platforms and human decision-makers. They are effective in denied areas, and they are at the tip of the spear for human-machine teaming.

Building the Best Tools for a Free World

In a world where free peoples face increasingly authoritarian regimes, I believe the free world needs the best tools. Tools that do not report people’s location or personal data to anyone who would deny freedom of expression or liberty.

We need drones and sensors built with top-notch software.  Built on a secure supply chain.  And built with cutting-edge autonomy and AI that can integrate into joint defense command and control architecture.

This is why I am excited to join Skydio and work alongside all the engineers, creators, experimenters, and innovators who built this product, and who are building the next generation of Skydio’s products.

This is the future of small-unit unmanned flight, and I’m glad to be part of it.

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