InDro Backpack makes smart dog robots smarter

InDro Backpack makes smart dog robots smarter

By Scott Simmie


Want to make a smart dog smarter?

(And by “dog,” we’re referring here to quadruped robots – whose form factor and locomotion make them look like dogs.)

InDro has developed a solution for that.

We call it InDro Backpack. It’s a bolt-on hardware/software product that transforms the capabilities of these robots, enabling them to carry out remote operations over 5G and 4G networks – with data streaming real-time to the desktop or laptop of the operator.

And why do we call it the InDro Backpack? Well, once it’s bolted on, that’s what it kind of looks like. This is our first generation prototype, mounted on the Unitree GO-1 EDU. (We’ll explain those scuff marks later on.)


InDro Backpack

What’s in the box


The box contains both hardware and software. On the hardware side, there’s a high-speed 5G modem, along with a Jetson Xavier NX (which manufacturer NVIDIA calls the “World’s smallest AI supercomputer”). The Robot Operating System (ROS) library is also stacked in there, along with the software required to use the ROCOS dashboard for controlling the system.

And what does that mean?

“The operator is able to send the control commands to the InDro backpack over a 5G or 4G network. And the InDro Backpack passes the commands and transmits that to the dog,” explains Kaiwen Xu of our Area X.O R&D engineering facility.

InDro Backpack also makes the most of the multiple sensors that come on quadrupeds like the GO1 EDU.

“Out of the box, the Unitree GO1 has an app. But it’s not the greatest at managing all of the camera feeds,” says Account Executive Luke Corbeth. “Through the ROCOS dashboard, it’s a lot easier to see each of the feeds and get the most out of the impressive hardware that’s in the units. There are five sets of cameras and three sets of ultrasonic sensors – so we can really ensure the client is getting the most out of those.”

In addition to that, the software libraries make the Unitree a fully ROS-enabled robot, which greatly expands its capabilities.

“That’s what makes Backpack valuable to the R&D community,” says Corbeth. “It means clients have access to all available packages to enable a wide range of applications, be it autonomous navigation, perception, motion planning, multi-robot systems – packages to ensure they can really jump-start their project. That’s the InDro value add-in.”

InDro has also made the User Interface super-intuitive, allowing an Xbox controller to control the robot via a laptop or desktop device. Even first-time users seem to have no difficulty telling these Backpack-enhanced dogs where to go, seeing their surroundings in real-time via video.


Who’s this for?


Who might benefit from an InDro Backpack-enabled quadruped?

Well, it depends on the use-case. For education, R&D and corporate innovation centres, the GO1 EDU with Backpack is a good choice. But Enterprise clients wanting to do outdoor inspections in more challenging environments will likely want a larger and more capable robot, the Unitree B1.

“The backpack was designed for the GO1 as a means of getting additional compute and teleoperations,” says Corbeth. “It can be used in simple and controlled environments, but as soon as it becomes more dangerous and complex it makes more sense to put the backpack on the B1.”

The B1 is capable of climbing larger stairs and negotiating more hazardous environments than the GO1 EDU. It also has an impressive Ingress Protection rating, making it better suited to these use-cases. That’s a photo of the B1 beside its smaller sibling below, taken at our Area X.O facility:


Unitree GO1 EDU and B1

Roll over


If you were looking carefully at the first image of the GO1 EDU with that backpack, you’ll have noticed a few scratches on top. How did they get there?

Well, the Unitree quadrupeds are capable of righting themselves if they happen to fall over on some challenging terrain. They do so with a manoeuvre that’s like a dog rolling over. This gets up enough intertia for them to land on their feet. We took that into account when designing the Backpack.

“The backpack has a slim profile. We built it so that it can still roll over – even if it falls,” says Corbeth. “So it doesn’t compromise any of the functionality of the robot.”

(Observant readers will also notice a Unitree robotic arm in the top right of the image below. More on that in a future post.)

Making a good robot great


Out of the box, the Unitree robots are highly capable. But InDro Backpack clearly expands those capabilities. With this add-on, the units can be operated from hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away using an Xbox controller with no discernible latency. Multiple windows in the ROCOS dashboard allow for monitoring data from the Unitree’s various cameras and sensors. The addition of the ROS software library and Jetson EDGE computer further enhance capabilities for autonomous functions.

In short, this good dog suddenly becomes a great dog – with additional capabilities.

“A client can add LiDAR to the dog, they can also put a stereo camera on top for 3D Simulatenous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM), and these kinds of things,” says Kaiwen Xu.

Two InDro Backpack-enabled Unitrees are soon heading out the door to California, with more in production. It’s a unique solution, designed from the bottom-up by InDro.

“This product has really solidified us as kind of the go-to integrators for some of the platforms out of Unitree,” adds Corbeth. “It’s worth noting that the backpack is platform-agnostic. It can go onto any platform, including the AgileX platform.”

So just picture that Backpack on the highly capable Unitree B1, seen below. A perfect fit for remote inspections and surveillance.

InDro’s take


A big part of What InDro Does is develop products that can expand the capabilities and use-case scenarios of existing products. Innovations like InDro Commander and InDro Pilot are already making their mark in the industry, and InDro Backpack is next.

“Upgrading a quadruped with InDro Backpack is a significant value-add that can truly teach a new dog new tricks,” says InDro CEO Philip Reece.

“With growing demand for teleoperated solutions – particularly for remote locations like electrical substations and solar farms – InDro Backpack transforms Unitree quadrupeds, and other robots, into more powerful and expandible platforms. I’m very pleased with the work our Area X.O team has put into the development and production of this tool.”

Interested in learning more? Feel free to contact Luke Corbeth to schedule a presentation or demo. And if you have an Xbox controller, he might even let you drive!

2022 InDro Highlights

2022 InDro Highlights

Wow. Another year has passed.

And for InDro Robotics, it was a year marked by new products, new deployments, and multiple milestones.

We did a deep dive on the year with our Year in Review story, which you can find here. But we realise some people might prefer a condensed version. So here we go, starting with the image above.

That’s Sentinel, our rugged teleoperated robot for remote inspections. We launched that product at the very beginning of 2022. It’s been designed for remote inspections, carried out over 4G and 5G networks. We customise Sentinel’s sensors based on client needs, but the standard model comes with a 30x optical Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera, thermal sensor, and a high-res wide-angle camera that gives the operator a clear view of surroundings.

Operations are a snap, using an Xbox controller plugged into a laptop with a comprehensive dashboard. Even dense data can be streamed and downloaded in real-time over 5G. In fact, we’ve proven Sentinel’s minimal-latency capabilities from more than 4,000 kilometres away. (That took place from Bellevue, Washington State, where we were invited to demo our system by T-Mobile.)

It didn’t take long for word to get around. A couple of months after Sentinel’s launch, we were invited to put it through its paces at the Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI. Check out this next image – it’s a frame grab from the Sentinel dashboard, and was captured during a mission at an EPRI testbed electrical substation in Lenox, Massachussetts.

Automated Robot Control

There’s a lot we could tell you about Sentinel but we’re trying to keep this tight. If you’d like more in-depth details you can read this story, or reach out to superstar Account Executive Luke Corbeth here

InDro Commander


A significant part of what gives Sentinel its various superpowers is an innovation we call InDro Commander. It’s a bolt-on box that contains a camera, EDGE computer, a 4G- and 5G-compatible modem and the ROS1 and ROS2 software libraries. That means it’s a snap for clients to add any additional sensors they’d like without the hassle of coding. 

You can operate any InDro Commander-enabled platform using an Xbox controller over a highly intuitive dashboard on your desktop or laptop. FYI, that box you see just above the InDro Logo (and just below the camera) in the image below? That’s InDro Commander.


Though InDro has a stellar reputation for ground robotics, the company was founded on the Unmanned Aerial System side of things. So we’ve been busy in that arena, as well.

The most significant development of the year is a software and hardware package we call InDro Pilot. In a nutshell, it’s a bolt-on module that’s similar to Commander. It enables remote BVLOS operations over 4G or 5G, dense data throughput, simplified sensor integration – plus the ability to broadcast to nearby traditional crewed aircraft that drone operations are taking place in the vicinity. 

That hexagonal box in the image is Version 1.0 of the hardware side. We’ve since created a much smaller and lighter version, capable of transforming any Enterprise drone using the Pixhawk flight controller into a low-latency, BVLOS super-RPAS.

InDro Pilot


In 2022, InDro teamed up with London Drugs to test out ground deliveries via our ROLL-E robot. 

There were two separate trials. The first, in Victoria, involved ROLL-E taking goods ordered online to a parking lot for touchless, curbside delivery. The second, in Surrey BC, involved the second generation of ROLL-E delivering goods from a London Drugs outlet to a consumer’s home. ROLL-E features 4G and 5G teleoperation, and is equipped with a total of six cameras (including two depth-perception cameras), giving the operator tremendous spatial awareness.

That’s ROLL-E 2.0, in the image below. Its secure cargo bay – which unlocks when the robot reaches its destination – can carry up to 50 kilograms.

Automated Delivery


Also in 2022, InDro Robotics became a North American distributor for the Unitree line of quadruped robots. These rugged, agile robots are well-suited to a variety of tasks, including remote inspection. In the video below, Luke Corbeth puts the entry-level GO 1 through its paces.

InDro backpack

Remember InDro Commander, the box that enables remote teleoperations and easy sensor integration? We figured a module like that could really expand the capabilities of the Unitree quadrupeds. 

And so – you guessed it – we built it. We call this device InDro Backpack, and you can see it on the robot below.

InDro Backpack

meet limo

InDro Robotics is also a North American distributor of the excellent AgileX robot line. This past year saw the introduction of a very cool machine for education and R&D called LIMO. It comes with an impressive number of features straight out of the box, including:

  • An NVIDIA Jetson Nano, capable of remote teleoperation over 4G
  • An EAI X2L LiDAR unit
  • Stereo camera
  • Four steering modes (tracked, Ackerman, four-wheel differential, and omni-directional)

It’s a powerful, SLAM-capable machine. Best of all? It’s really affordable.

InDro Robotics Limo

montreal marathon

Three InDro employees took part in the Montreal Marathon – but they were largely standing still.

In fact, they were operating sub-250 gram drones as part of a medical research pilot project. The drones – two were constantly in the air throughout the run – were positioned at a point near the end of the course where runners sometimes encounter medical distress. Live feeds from the drones were monitored in a tent by researchers for two reasons: To see if the aerial view could help them quickly identify someone needing help, and to help pinpoint their location so assistance could be rapidly dispatched.

The results? The drone feeds helped quickly identify and locate two runners in need of help

“The view from above when monitoring moving crowds is just incomparable,” says Dr. Valérie Homier, an Emergency Physician at McGill University Health Centre and the lead researcher on the project. 

Below: InDro pilots Kaiwen Xu, Ella Hayashi and Liam Dwyer.

InDro Robotics Team


One of the highlights of the year was the TCXpo event at Area X.O in Ottawa. Sponsored by Transport Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, it was a full day of demonstrations from Canadian leaders in the world of Smart Mobility. 

InDro was there, of course, displaying our InDro Pilot-enabled Wayfinder drone, as well a *lot* of ground robots. CEO Philip Reece moderated a panel – and was also in charge of airspace for multiple drone demonstrations. That’s Philip, below, talking about aerial and ground robotics to attendees.

InDro Robotics Philip Reece
InDro Robotics Training


Speaking of drones, we also launched drone training and resource portal FLYY. Online lessons are carried out by our own Kate Klassen, widely recognised as one of the best (and most qualified) drone instructors in North America. Whether you’re looking to obtain your Basic or Advanced RPAS certificate, or want to further expand your skills, Kate’s got the goods.

If you’re looking for training for multiple people, Kate offers discounts for companies and educational institutes. You can reach her here.

it's a secret...

The other big thing happening in 2022 (and continuing in 2023) was InDro’s work with major global clients. We can’t disclose that work due to non-disclosure agreements, but we can tell you we’re busy with multiple, exciting, ongoing projects!

Finally, we closed out 2022 with another successful InDro Hack-a-Thon. Employees were given a day and a half to work on a project or process that could benefit InDro down the road. Once again, Team InDro delivered, with some amazing projects completed within the deadline. You can read all about it here

a final word...

As you can see, it’s been quite a year – and CEO Philip Reece couldn’t be happier.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work InDro accomplished in 2022,” he says. “Our engineering and sales staff consistently punch above their weight, with multiple significant milestones – including excellent revenue growth – achieved in the past year. Just as gratifying is the fact our employees love what they do.”

Very true. Now stay tuned for an even more amazing 2023.

And if you’d like to reach InDro, just give that little orange button a click. Though we’ve got plenty of robots, we’ll make sure a real human being gets back to you shortly.

InDro employees use skills, imagination, during annual “Hack-a-Thon”

InDro employees use skills, imagination, during annual “Hack-a-Thon”

By Scott Simmie


Most of the time, InDro staff work on company projects. Generally that means developing new products, manufacturing products for clients, testing new devices in the field and carrying out service provision. Sometimes it even means packing up very large robots for safe shipment to global clients.

But there’s one time of year when all of that is set aside. Staff are given total freedom to come up with their own concepts for products or processes that could be useful for InDro Robotics. And then they’re given a brief amount of time – a day and a half – to see what they can produce. When time is up, a company-wide videoconference is held and employees unveil their creations in five-minute pitch sessions. Votes are cast, and winners are declared.

It’s the InDro version of a “Hack-a-Thon” – though some call it a “Hack-a-Tron” in homage to the movie Tron.

We set aside time for this just before Christmas, and for a couple of reasons. The first is that, as with most companies, things slow down a bit during the holiday season. The second reason is – like the holidays – this event is worth celebrating.

Before we hop into a brief summary of the presentations, here’s a quick look at the kinds of projects employees were encouraged to pursue:




Yes, there are rules – including no “Death by Powerpoint.” 


On with the show!


Engineering lead Arron Griffiths pulled together a design for a “dog house.” The intended occupant of the house is Sentinel, our remote inspection robot designed for electrical substations, solar farms, etc. 

But why a dog house?

“Well, 90 per cent of robot deployments are short term – think two to four hours – and they tend take place in areas where humans aren’t nearby to check on and recharge the robot. So robots need a safe, warm, dry place where they can recharge.”

Sentinel is capable of recharging wirelessly, and using optical recognition to align itself properly with the charger. So why not have a little home where Sentinel can be protected from the elements? Arron’s design included solar panels to keep Sentinel fed, and a roof using plastic material in order to avoid any interference. There’s even an antenna on top, and an air-conditioner for those really dog day afternoons.

Arron’s design obviously took into account the dimensions of Sentinel, meaning this design is intended to become a real-world product. InDro will likely build its first dog house in Q3 of 2023. 


Hack-a-Thon dog house
Hack-a-Thon dog house

Product renders


InDro is a distributor of Unitree robots (among other products). And while we always keep a few of their entry-level quadrupeds in stock, we generally ship orders for higher-end robots directly to the client (unless they want us to modify them).

sThat means we don’t have ultra high quality images of these products for marketing purposes. Stephan Tzolov decided he’d address this, dusting off some old (and impressive) skills in graphic production/design. He imported a CAD model, then worked wonders with virtual lighting, textures and more using Keyshot software.

“I liked flexing my creative muscles in a way that both provided something new and exciting for the team,” he says. “This also revitalizes the way in which we could showcase our robots and potential future/upcoming projects. Future development can include animations.”

Stephan has even included the InDro Backpack – which enables teleoperations over 4G and 5G and makes additional sensor integration a snap. The renders even show how the look of robots can be customised with skins for client branding.

We were really impressed with what Stephan pulled together. Look closely: Can you tell these are not  actual photographs?


Big dog


By the way, not long after the Hack-a-Thon a Unitree B1 arrived at Area X.O. It’s a much larger robot than its sibling. Interestingly, Stephan’s renders look just as good – perhaps even better – than the real thing.

Unitree B1



Software simulations are highly useful in the R&D world. They can help engineers understand aerodynamics, stress – and much more – without using a physical object in the real world or waiting for the event to happen. And so a couple of staff members chose this area for the InDro Hack-a-Thon.

Area X.O’s Kaiwen Xu used the open-source software jMAVSim to create a simulator for the Pixhawk flight controller, the PX4. This flight controller is commonly used in Enterprise drones. But not all flight controllers are the same. For example, a DJI flight controller will respond slightly differently to inputs than a Pixhawk. Plus, the Pixhawk is commonly used in conjunction with Q Ground Control, or QGC, which has its own unique set of commands for programming flights.

Pilot candidates and clients can practice flying in Software In the Loop (SWIL) environment before going out to flying a real drone,” says Kaiwen. “A typical use-case would be helping a new pilot learn how to arm, disarm, switch flight modes, change parameter settings – and get the feeling of controlling the sticks to operate the drone.”

The simulator could even be used to carry out pre-programmed autopilot flights.

Kaiwen did a successful realtime demo, carrying out a simulated flight. Here’s a mid-mission screengrab:

Pixhawk simulation InDro Hack-a-Thon

EVA drives in virtual space


The second simulation was prepared by Liam Dwyer, and involved our latest delivery robot.

ROLL-E 2.0 is the second generation of our delivery robot line. It has already been used in curbside pickup and home delivery trials with London Drugs. This second gen version is really slick looking, can carry up to 50kg of cargo, and is remotely teleoperated over 4G and 5G networks. It’s also somehow more feminine in appearance than the original ROLL-E – leading some staff to call it EVA (a name that might stick).

Though Liam can drive the physical ROLL-E 2.0 anytime, he thought it would be useful to create a simulated world for testing purposes. He used a graphical interface called RVIZ, which helps to visualize things in 3D space that use the Robot Operating System (ROS) software. Liam included proper inertia and collision values to make the simulation as realistic as possible, and operated it within Gazebo – an open-source, 3D robotic simulator.

Future uses of his creation include testing ROLL-E 2.0 virtually on various inclines and terrains, including testing its ability to handle curbs and other obstacles.

Saving search time…


InDro Robotics is a busy place, with operations in Victoria, Vancouver, Salt Spring Island and Area X.O in Ottawa. Because we’re an R&D company, you can imagine the amount of documentation, part orders, purchase requests, receipts, shipping waybills, etc.

Trust us, it’s a lot of stuff.

Being able to drill down and find specific documents is time-consuming. And that task frequently falls to Office Manager Panfei Gu. What if, she thought, there was a way to have software take on some of that burden?

Panfei teamed up with Ella Hayashi from engineering. They quickly developed a plan. Ella would code a “Smart Search” that could parse its way through the various locations using keywords. The program works at the top directory searching every file in that directory and lower, opening folders as it goes. The Python script also was written so that if three keywords were entered, all three had to appear in the document before it would be displayed as a result.

The end result? A smarter way to search, and less time (and frustration) for Panfei in front of a monitor. Here’s a key page from their Power Point presentation, outlining some of the steps:




If you follow InDro, you’ll be aware of a device we call InDro Capsule. It’s essentially a module that vastly increases the capability of Enterprise drones using the Pixhawk flight controller. Those enhanced capabilities include:

  • Remote teleoperations over 4G, 5G
  • Dense data realtime downloads and uploads to the cloud
  • Broadcasting drone ops location to traditional crewed aircraft
  • Secure, encrypted data transmission and Command and Control

 The first generation of this product, InDro Pilot, is the hexagonal box you see on our Wayfinder in this photo:

InDro Pilot NERDS

Shrinky, shrinky


There are advantages to making that capsule smaller and lighter. Reduced weight means greater flight efficiency. It also enables attaching this product to smaller drones.

In fact, we’ve already created a downsized V 2.0 of this product. But InDro’s Peter Sherk wondered if we could get it even smaller. And so that was his project, trying to downsize this module even further to a minimal size and weight. 

Interestingly, one of the most expensive components in his mini-capsule was finding a suitable connector cable that would work with the small version. We’d love to show you some of the detailed drawings and parts lists, but that would kind of give away the secret sauce of InDro Capsule.

So we’ll leave you with an image that gives you a sense of scale: The new and tiny InDro Capsule, sitting next to a standard sized banana:

Multitasking router


Many of InDro’s products are meant to be teleoperated remotely over 4G and 5G networks. In fact, all of our drones and ground robots are customized with this feature, enabling remote operations hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away. (We have one upcoming deployment where an InDro pilot based in Vancouver will be conducting regular missions a continent away.)

All of those products use a modem/router where a SIM card is inserted to enable communication over telecom networks. But here’s the thing: Some of our clients do not require remote teleoperation. Universities, R&D companies and more are often using these products, particularly ground robots, indoors or in very close quarters outdoors. Yet they must still purchase a SIM card and data plan to remotely control these robots through a computer dashboard.

Area X.O’s Tirth Gajera had a better idea: To flash the firmware of our most-used modem/router to enable it to operate over WiFi. Pretty much every facility (if not all) where these units are being used internally or within small outdoor confines has a local WiFi network. Upgrading the capabilities of the modem/router would save those clients money.

Tirth’s work also enables the modem to scan for local SSID (network names), allowing the correct network to be selected. That means products like our remote inspection robot Sentinel could be put to work using a local area network, rather than using a SIM card and network plan.

InDro Sentinel

One-stop shopping


InDro now manufactures or resells a growing number of products. And many of those products themselves come in different iterations. For example, some clients want the Sentinel mentioned above to come equipped with a LiDAR sensor; others might want thermal and optical. We also resell – and modify – the Unitree line of quadruped robots. And more.

For the sales team, that has traditionally meant that data about specifications, custom integrations, images and costs are in different locations. As a result, getting a quick quote or answering a spec question for a customer requires some time looking things up. Wouldn’t it be easier, thought account executive Luke Corbeth (who handles the majority of sales), if we had a streamlined repository with all of this data easily accessible in one place?

Why yes. Yes, it would.

Luke built a highly structured database using workplace software Notion that does precisely that. It’s a secure platform, and allows Luke and others to quickly drill down to get the data or assets they need with minimal effort. We anticipate this will be a useful InDro tool moving forward.

Here’s a look at part of the overview of Luke’s project.

Hack-a-Thon Luke

And the Winners Are…

Following the presentation, a vote was held. And here are the results, from First Place to Third:

  • Peter Sherk, for solid plans to shrink down the InDro Capsule
  • Arron Griffiths, for the Sentinel dog house
  • Luke Corbeth for the sales and marketing database

Fourth went to Stephan Tzolov, for those amazing renders. Speaking of which, we’ll leave you with a bonus holiday greeting Stephan created as part of the package.


InDro’s Take


The annual Hack-a-Thon is now an established part of InDro work culture, and a fun and special event for the entire company. It’s amazing seeing what those with an engineering background – and even those without one – can pull together in a very short amount of time. 

“This year’s Hack-a-Thon has once again produced products, processes and plans that will prove beneficial for InDro Robotics and its clients,” says CEO Philip Reece. “And while we do vote for ‘winners’ – every idea that came to the table has merit and potential use-cases. Kudos to everyone who took part, and I’m already looking forward to the 2023 edition.”