InDro Robotics and T-Mobile: A 5G match

InDro Robotics and T-Mobile: A 5G match

InDro Robotics was recently invited to attend an analyst’s summit in Bellevue, Washington State, put on by T-Mobile for Business. We were demonstrating remote operations of our Sentinel inspection robot, with Command & Control taking place over the 5G network. We were at the summit; the robot was in Ottawa.

We’ll get to that in a moment. But first, it’s worth looking at how InDro became involved with T-Mobile. It began with a different invitation. This one, from the Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI.

EPRI is a major non-profit that does research and development to improve the efficiency of power generation and delivery. As the Institute states: “EPRI’s trusted experts collaborate with more than 450 companies in 45 countries, driving innovation to ensure the public has clean, safe, reliable, affordable, and equitable access to electricity across the globe.”

EPRI does a *lot* of testing within its R&D scope, often looking to find Best Practices it can share with its members. And in 2022, EPRI decided it wanted to put some ground robots to the test. Specifically, it was interested in how remotely operated or autonomous robots might be used to inspect electrical substations. These are usually remote, unstaffed facilities where high voltage is stepped down prior to being delivered to consumers (though some substations step up voltage).

EPRI invited a few ground robot manufacturers to its testing facility in Lenox, Massachusetts to see how well robots could carry out remote inspection. That facility is an electrical substation that can be energised or de-energised. It also features a set of overhead water pipes that can be used to simulate rain.

And so, earlier this year, InDro Robotics packed up Sentinel for the test.


InDro Robotics Sentinel

The 5G connection


Sentinel, like all of our ground robots (and drones), has been modified by InDro to enable remote teleoperations. By connecting to 4G or 5G networks at both ends, InDro devices can be operated from hundreds and even thousands of kilometres away. But while 4G works for many operations, 5G is the gold standard.

That’s because 5G allows for dense data downloads, virtually in real-time. Since the Sentinel robot is equipped with multiple sensors (30x optical zoom pan-tilt-zoom camera, thermal, and sometimes LiDAR), a large data pipeline is advantageous. Not only does it enable real-time, minimal latency for the operator – it also allows for direct data uploads to the cloud.

InDro, of course, is based in Canada. And the EPRI test facility is based in the US. That meant we required a high-speed, robust cellular network in the US to carry out the test.

Because InDro is an R&D company, we did extensive research prior to selecting a US carrier. We wanted to make a single choice and stick with it, given the growing number of deployments in the US.

The choice quickly became obvious: T-Mobile. Its 5G network covers the entire country, with new towers being added each week. T‑Mobile has 5G speeds nearly twice as fast as its competitors. Typical download speeds on T‑Mobile’s 5G network are 75 – 335 Mbps with peaks over 1Gbps.

And when we were in Bellevue on T-Mobile’s network? Just check out the speed test below:


T Mobile

T-Mobile Summit


T-Mobile got wind of us selecting them as our network of choice for US operations. The company even issued a news release on that front. And Peter King, InDro’s Head of Robotic Solutions, wrote a guest blog about the Lenox experience and why a solid 5G network is so important to this kind of work.

And all of that? Well, it led to InDro being invited to the first-ever T-Mobile for Business Analysts Summit, held in Bellevue in October. We were asked to demonstrate the low-latency and data throughput that 5G enables. And what better way than to have our Sentinel robot connected to 5G in Ottawa…with us connected to 5G in Bellevue.

Those attending the summit were invited to the InDro display, where they could operate the robot using a simple Xbox controller. Video and thermal imaging were returned in real-time. But the real star of the show was near-zero latency. Seriously, the instant the controller was touched Sentinel would respond.

The hands-on demo even impressed John Saw, a McMaster engineering graduate who’s now the Executive Vice President, Advanced & Emerging Technologies at T-Mobile. Here’s John, controlling Sentinel over 5G in Ottawa from more than 4100km away:

T Mobile

It’s clear John Saw thought the experience was kind of cool – and indicative of the kind of applications 5G unlocks.

In fact, he even mentioned it to the analysts:

InDro’s take


5G connectivity is about a lot more than phone calls. The speed and bandwidth of 5G is what will power the growing Internet of Things. And our Sentinel robot, arguably, is an IoT device. Operating it using T-Mobile’s network in the US, connected to the private 5G network at Area X.O, was a snap.

“Building ground and aerial robots that can be operated from great distances is integral to InDro Robotics and its clients,” explains InDro CEO Philip Reece. “But this capability can only be realized with fast, reliable networks. T-Mobile was the obvious choice for our US operations – and we look forward to many more deployments over 5G in the future.”

Finally, a shout-out to T-Mobile for Business. Thanks for inviting us to Washington State; it was a privilege to be able to showcase our technology with the help of your 5G network.

Spexi announces “Spexigon” – a global fly-to-earn platform

Spexi announces “Spexigon” – a global fly-to-earn platform

Vancouver-based Spexi Geospatial has some news – and it’s big.

The company has announced a plan, and a platform, to capture high-resolution aerial data of the earth with drones. Drone pilots will be able to fly to earn crypto currency – or even dollars.

The long-term goal? Well, picture crystal-clear data sets of cities, infrastructure, and even rural settings. With each individual pilot capturing data from different locations, Spexigon will assemble it over time to form a global jigsaw puzzle – and sell parts of that dataset to clients.

We’ll get into more details shortly, but Spexi’s plan has some strong backers – including InDro Robotics.


News release


News of Spexigon came in the form of an announcement. The company revealed it had secured $5.5 million USD in seed funding “to pursue our vision of collecting Earth’s most important data with drones.” The funding round was led by Blockchange Ventures, with other investing by InDro Robotics, Protocol Labs, Alliance DAO, FJ Labs, Dapper Labs, Vinny Lingham, Adam Jackson, and CyLon Ventures.

The same team that built Spexi – an easy-to use system for automated flight and data acquisition – is developing Spexigon. This brief video gives a “big picture” look at how it will work when it’s rolled out next year.

“Fly to earn”


A big part of what makes Spexigon’s plan so intriguing is what you might call incentivised crowd-sourcing. Anyone with a drone can download the forthcoming Spexigon app and fly an automated flight. The images will be uploaded to Spexigon to build the database – and the pilot will be rewarded.

“With our new Fly-to-Earn model, people who own consumer drones will be able to earn $SPEXI tokens and dollars while building a high resolution base layer of the earth,” reads the Spexigon announcement. “It is our hope that soon any organization or individual will be able to use the imagery collected by the Spexigon platform to make better decisions.”


Business model


You could think of this over time as like Google Earth, only with really sharp aerial imagery. Every time a pilot carries out a flight for Spexigon, that map will continue to fill in, building Spexigon’s database. Clients will purchase imagery online.

“This new base layer will enable governments and organizations of all sizes to make better decisions about real world assets like buildings, utilities, infrastructure, risk and natural resources, without requiring people on the ground,” continues the announcement.

“By using Spexigon, organizations that require high-resolution aerial imagery will no longer need to own their own drones or hire their own pilots. Instead, they’ll use our web and mobile app to search for and purchase imagery. Data buyers will then be able to use a variety of internal and external tools to put the imagery to use.”


For pilots


Spexigon says it will have online training when it launches. Pilots will learn how to use the app to carry out their flights – which, obviously, the pilots will monitor. Depending on the location, pilots can earn crypto currency or actual dollars. Some locations, obviously, will have greater value to Spexigon and its clients than others.

“The app will contain a map of the earth overlaid with hexagonal zones called ‘Spexigons’. Spexigons that are open and ready to fly will be easily visible so pilots can choose an area close to them and begin collecting imagery,” says the company.

“To ensure that imagery is captured in a safe, standardized, and repeatable way, our app controls each pilot’s drone automatically while they supervise the flight. Although our app will do the flying, pilots will always be in command and will have the ability to take back manual control at any time if need arises.”

Spexigon is now starting to build the app, and already has a small community emerging. You can join its Telegram channel here – and there’s also a Discord channel.

As for those ‘Spexigons’, the image below gives you an idea what those pieces of the puzzle might look like.


InDro’s take


Since InDro Robotics is one of the backers of Spexigon, we obviously feel the plan is a good one.

It comes from the outstanding team that built Spexi from scratch into a user-friendly, automated system for capturing and crunching aerial data. We also believe drone pilots will embrace this unique “fly to earn” model – a global first.

“The Spexi team has already created an excellent and proven Software as a Solution product and clearly has the expertise in this space,” says InDro Robotics CEO Philip Reece. “I’m genuinely excited about the potential for Spexigon to become the ‘go-to’ database of high-quality aerial imagery from around the world.”

So are the rest of us.