Draganfly sells, donates drones for use in Ukraine

Draganfly sells, donates drones for use in Ukraine

By Scott Simmie

The use of non-military drones in Ukraine has jumped significantly since the Russian invasion began. Consumer products, particularly DJI drones, have been widely used by both sides in the war for situational awareness and identifying combatant positions. They’ve also been used extensively by journalists to help convey the scale of the devastation, particularly the destruction of civilian targets.

Now, North American drone manufacturer Draganfly has announced it will be sending 10 drones for use by Ukrainian forces. The drones – five Medical Response drones and five for Search and Rescue – have been purchased by a third party as a donation to the non-profit relief agency Revived Soldiers Ukraine. They are part of an initial order (subject to conditions) of up to 200 units destined for the conflict zone.

We wanted to learn more about the drones and how they’ll be used, so we sat down virtually with the CEO of Draganfly, Cameron Chell.

Before there was DJI in Shenzhen, there was Draganfly in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Canada). Initially founded by Zenon and Christine Dragan in 1998, the company released its first commercialized quadrotor the following year. In 2001, it released the first multi-rotor UAV with an integrated camera system.

It wasn’t long before some early adopters in law enforcement started embracing the utility of drones, using them to help document and clear accident scenes and for Search and Rescue operations.

In fact, in 2013 a FLIR-equipped Draganfly drone helped locate someone who had sustained a head injury in an auto accident and wandered away in freezing temperatures, suffering severe hypothermia. It’s credited as the first drone rescue to save a human life. In fact, that drone now resides in the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum. The case was written about here.


Cameron Chell

In July of 2015, Draganfly was acquired by a US technology firm, which is how Chell came into the picture. He says the company’s connection with First Responders has only grown – and is very much part of Draganfly’s identity.

“Draganfly has sold more than 9000 drones or drone systems to public safety,” he says. “We have a strong history of being of service, or trying to be of service, to the First Responder community. That’s a big piece of culture in the organization.”

And that’s why, he says, the shipment of drones to Ukraine is a good fit.


Drones for Ukraine


The drones were actually purchased by channel partner Coldchain Delivery Systems which specializes in packaging for temperature-sensitive products with an emphasis on medical supplies. Coldchain also has a $750,000 contract with Draganfly for a multi-phase project that could ultimately bring 9-1-1 dispatched drone medical deliveries to the entire state of Texas.

Cold Chain wanted these drones purchased for Revived Soldiers Ukraine, a non-profit agency playing a significant role in assisting during the conflict. (In March alone, RSU provided goods ranging from ambulances and portable X-Ray machines through to bullet-proof vests and helmets for medical personnel and civilians totalling more than $2.75M dollars.)

A total of 10 drones were purchased by Coldchain Delivery Systems for the initial order. Draganfly is selling the drones at cost, and is donating an additional three drones free of charge. Chell says the drones had to be modified to make them suitable for use in Ukraine.

“We had to change all the comms systems out,” he explains. “It’s a different LTE system, there’s a bunch of interference.”

The first drones will ship mid-April.


The Medical Response drone


Here’s a look at the medical drone, which uses Coldchain’s proprietary system to keep medical supplies at required temperatures.



The Medical Response drone has a temperature regulated payload of 35 pounds. It’s intended for shuttling critical supplies, including blood, pharmaceuticals, insulin/medicines, vaccines, water, and wound care kits.

You’ll note in the photo above that the payload is shown on top of the drone. This machine is also capable of carrying the payload beneath, with a quick-release mechanism. Dropping the cargo close to the ground and quickly resuming flight removes potential risk for those receiving the cargo (they won’t be getting close to the drone). It also extends battery life, since the drone won’t have to fully land, shut down, then re-start. Flight time is 25 minutes, with an estimated range of three+ kilometres with a 20-pound payload. Lighter payloads – and it’s anticipated some will be lighter – will have a greater range.

We’re providing drones that are very specific for exactly what they need,” says Chell. “Some others might have an airframe, but they don’t have a temperature-managed payload – so this is very specifically built, this is mission-critical.”

Range on the first shipment will be limited to RF communication over two kilometres. But a second batch, modified for Ukraine, will utilize LTE and have solid communication over a 20-kilometre range.

And the Search and Rescue drones? They’re smaller, faster, and equipped with a thermal sensor – which could prove useful in detecting people trapped in rubble or bombed buildings. Revived Soldiers Ukraine has experienced drone operators; Draganfly will be providing virtual training for these specific drones, and is examining potentially sending trainers to Poland and even Ukraine if more drones are sent in future. (Assuming the first 10 are effective in the field, the potential is here for up to 200 drones being purchased.)



In addition to the these first drones, Chell says several shareholders contacted the company and offered to purchase drones to be donated to the cause. Seven drones have been purchased for this purpose. Chell says the interest has been so great the company now has a page up for people interested in directly purchasing drones for donation. The company says it will provide ongoing mission statistics for those donated humanitarian drones, and possibly even video of some missions.


As you can see by the price tags and builds, these are not consumer drones. The open-source, North American-made Draganfly products are purpose-built for specific tasks, and feature secure data handling.

Perhaps more important in a war zone, they cannot be tracked with an Aeroscope the way DJI products can. The Aeroscope device is capable of tracking not only DJI drones but also the location of the pilot, which – in a war zone – carries significant risks. (It’s believed that Russia has deployed Aeroscope units.)

“We don’t have system where someone else can track the pilot and track the drone,” says Chell. “These things can’t be tracked.”

(Just FYI, other drone companies have recently announced donations on the Ukraine front. We’ve seen recent announcements from Skydio and Volatus.


A personal connection


While Draganfly has a corporate tradition of working closely with First Responders, Chell reveals that a personal experience has made this mission resonate even more.

“I was at the base of the towers at 9-11 when the first plane hit,” he says.

“Not that I wasn’t a First Responder fan before that, but that weighs very prominently into my ethos or direction in wanting to give back to that community…and in humanitarian situations.”

InDro’s Take


Though we haven’t deployed to a war zone, we have flown disaster response missions. In addition, InDro Robotics has considerable experience with drone delivery. We shuttled COVID test kits from a remote, island-based community on a regular basis during the peak of the pandemic. We’ve also been involved in multiple trials and projects, delivering everything from prescription medications and simulated blood products through to Automated External Defibrillators.

We know, from that work, that even with deliberate planning there can be unexpected obstacles, such as gaps in cellular connectivity, interference, abrupt weather changes, etc. Draganfly has already anticipated some of these challenges, including RF interference, cellular dropouts, and the different LTE system.

Successful deliveries, especially when the cargo is critical, require getting the right product in the right hands at the right time. This is even more urgent and difficult in a hostile environment. Revived Soldiers Ukraine has been on the ground since day one of the conflict, and will have a good handle on both the challenges – and the needs.

We wish Draganfly and Revived Soldiers Ukraine the very best in this endeavour – and look forward to an update in the future.

InDro Robotics hits the podcast circuit

InDro Robotics hits the podcast circuit

By Scott Simmie

It’s been a busy week for InDro Robotics on the airwaves of the internet.

Two of our best talkers were asked to be guests on two separate industry podcasts, and the final products of both were released within two days of each other. Our CEO, Philip Reece, was the first up to the microphone, followed by Strategy and Implementation Specialist (and widely recognized training professional) Kate Klassen.

Because Philip went first (and because he’s the boss), we’ll start with him.

Philip was asked to appear on a podcast called Inflection Points. The highly rated podcast (Five Stars!) describes itself as exploring the “vision of the future of network-based technology.”

Because many of our products (and much of our R&D) focus on connected devices, Philip was a good choice for that broader topic. But the show’s hosts wanted to a deeper dive into an area where InDro’s CEO is an expert: The world of drones.

Here’s the synopsis for the episode:

“Just a few years ago drones were about hype. The reality is that this network-based tech is making a real difference in our lives today. Join hosts Carla Guzzetti and Tim Harrison as they hear from Indro Robotics CEO Philip Reece exactly how this change is happening and just when those drones will be dropping those shoes you just bought right to your door.”

Philip had an answer for that – and much more.


Philip Reece

It’s always great when a podcast reveals something new or unexpected. And we can tell you there were more than a few gems in this episode. But perhaps the most entertaining was when Philip explained how he switched from the world of running a seaplane airline to the world of drones (and, eventually, other robotics).

We’d love to tell you that story here, because it’s really entertaining – but we’ll let Philip tell you instead. There’s much more, of course, including a deep dive into the future of networked devices, including how aerial and ground robots will routinely be working collaboratively.

Before we get to the show, here’s a snippet that gives you an idea what to expect (and also flags that there’s cool stuff about Uncrewed Ground Vehicles, as well):

On with the show…

Okay, enough preamble. Time to hear Philip, Carla and Tim – and learn when a drone might actually deliver Carla those shoes.

Wait, there’s more!

Philip is a great and knowledgeable talker. But he’s got some competition from Kate Klassen.

Kate is widely known in Canadian circles for her contributions to both traditional aviation (she’s a multi-rated commercial pilot and instructor) as well as her immense impact on the drone world. Both Kate and Philip serve on Transport Canada’s CanaDAC Drone Advisory Committee and as board members on the Aerial Evolution Association of Canada (formerly Unmanned Systems Canada).

And Kate, who previously created and fronted a highly successful online drone course in Canada, recently outdid herself with FLYY – a brand new and fully updated set of online courses you can read about here.

FLYY is on track to become the new leader in online learning, and even includes a supportive internal social network where pros like Kate share tips with beginners on everything from safety protocols through to nailing the perfect aerial photograph. When we say it’s a comprehensive learning and resource portal, we mean it.

With a background like that, it should be no surprise that Commercial UAV News wanted to hear more from Kate about FLYY, the importance of solid training – and much more. Here she is, on the latest edition of Beyond Part 107:

If you just skipped that podcast but are considering checking out FLYY, we’d encourage you to go back.

Why? Well, let’s just say there’s a little Easter Egg (perfectly timed!) waiting somewhere in that show – a discount code for FLYY. Plus, of course, it’s likely you’re learn something from Kate.

Hope you enjoy the podcasts; both Kate and Philip are real pros.

InDro Robotics, London Drugs, pilot Roll-E robot

InDro Robotics, London Drugs, pilot Roll-E robot

By Scott Simmie, InDro Robotics


Meet Roll-E.

It’s a cargo-carrying Uncrewed Ground Vehicle (UGV), or robot, developed by InDro Robotics. It can be remotely teleoperated from around the corner or across the country. And it’s being put into service in a new partnership with London Drugs, helping with contactless curbside deliveries in Victoria.

We’ll explore all the relevant deets in a moment, but first – let’s take a look at this nifty and smart machine.

Delivery Robots

You’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty good-looking robot. But Roll-E is much more than that.

Built on the AgileX Scout Mini platform, Roll-E has been constructed to operate over the 5G and 4G networks. The remotely operated robot has a temperature-controlled cargo bay, GPS tracking, wireless charging – and turns on a dime. It also has front and rear cameras so that the operator can avoid any obstacles.

But what’s it doing at London Drugs? Glad you asked. Here’s the headline, from the London Drugs news release:

London Drugs Delivery

As we inexorably head into the Internet of Things universe, connected devices like Roll-E will play an ever-greater role in daily life. In this case, InDro Robotics has teamed up for an innovative pilot project at the London Drugs Harris Green Village location in Victoria, BC.

The global pandemic has changed, perhaps permanently, business and consumer practices. Online ordering and curbside pickups have grown tremendously. So we’re excited about using Roll-E to deliver secure, contactless pickup to drivers collecting goods.

And so is London Drugs:

“With the ubiquity of curbside pickup services now available, we’re constantly looking at new ways to invest and adopt cutting-edge solutions that will serve our customers in the safest, easiest and most user-friendly ways possible,” says Clint Mahlman, London Drugs president and COO. “We’re excited to pilot ROLL-E at our Harris Green Village store and further explore the full range of applications that this technology can add to our services in Victoria and at other locations throughout Western Canada.”

The UGV advantage

Though there’s a lot of potential for drone delivery (and more on this in a moment), current regulations make flying drones – particularly operating drones beyond the visual line of sight of the pilot in urban centres – difficult. The rules exist for very good reasons, including the protection of people, property and airspace.

Uncrewed Ground Vehicles are different. They operate on sidewalks or paths, not in airspace. The remote operator has a clear view of surroundings at all times, and pedestrians are given the right-of-way. InDro’s UGVs are all electrically powered, meaning zero emissions. InDro also received permission from Victoria’s municipal authorities, who are onboard with this pilot project.

This isn’t InDro’s first collaboration with London Drugs. In an earlier trial carried out in conjunction with Canada Post and Salt Spring Island’s Country Grocer, InDro demonstrated the ability to quickly and securely deliver prescription drugs to remote locations far faster than it would be possible to deliver via ground vehicles or by boat. Such aerial deliveries, especially in medical emergencies, could be life-saving. In that pilot project, drones were the appropriate tool because the locations were remote and did not involve congested urban airspace.

We’re still quite proud of that project, and you’ll see why here:



Roll-E’s a smart machine


Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge robotic capabilities from the exterior. Roll-E contains the same brains as our proprietary InDro Commander module. This gives Roll-E the capability to eventually carry out fully autonomous missions, including mapping unfamiliar environments as it travels. Even machine learning and machine vision – where, for example, Roll-E is able to detect and act on the signals at a crosswalk – are all possible within this framework.

For now, though, Roll-E will be operated by a careful and conscientious human being working behind-the-scenes. Roll-E will be loaded inside the store for curbside delivery, then make its way to the appointed pick-up spot. It has a range of about nine kilometres on a single wireless charge, but Roll-E won’t be going far from home during this pilot project.

London Drugs has pulled together a great little Q&A, which you can find it here. If you’d like to see the entire news release, it’s here. (And if you’re really into this, you can check out CTV News coverage of the project.)


InDro’s Take

As an R&D company, we take considerable pride in the products we conceive, design and manufacture. It’s no different with Roll-E, which will help London Drugs customers at this particular Victoria location save time on pick-up. We also value our corporate partnerships – so we’re pleased to be taking part in this pilot project. We have a sense that for Roll-E, this is just the beginning.

“London Drugs has a track record of innovation, embracing new technologies that could help with efficiency and customer experience,” says Philip Reece, CEO of InDro Robotics. “We’ve enjoyed great success working with London Drugs and others on our drone trials delivering prescription medications to remote communities. I anticipate that someday in the future, deliveries using robots – whether by air or ground – will be routine.”

If your company might benefit from the use or robots or drones for delivery, inspection, security or data acquisition, don’t be shy. You can reach us here. (And no matter how advanced our technology gets, we’ll always ensure that a real person gets back to you.)