Canadian Startup KiDrone has big plans – and technology – for reforestation

Canadian Startup KiDrone has big plans – and technology – for reforestation

By Scott Simmie


A Canadian startup has ambitious plans to deploy long-range, high-payload drones for reforestation at scale.

Using an extended-range, heavy-lift drone and patent-pending Machine Learning, the company calculates it could drop one million seeds in a single mission. Not only that, but it could plant seeds for different species in the most appropriate locations.

“We are a reforestation technology company,” explains CEO and Founder Trevor Grant. “We are going to be deploying heavy-lift unmanned helicopters coupled with AI machine learning to scale reforestation to industrial levels.”

That’s an impressive goal. Let’s look at how KiDrone plans to achieve it.




Many of the startups we’ve met over the years were founded by engineers. But CEO/Founder Trevor Grant is a lawyer by trade. So how did he wind up starting a venture involving drones and reforestation? Well, a couple of things happened.

First, he happened to watch a documentary on Netflix called Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet. It was about climate change, and the need to take urgent action on a global level. The following day, he happened to be reading an article about Beyond Visual Line of Sight flights. And then he started thinking.

“It tweaked in my head, perhaps the largest impediment to this (reforestation) is labour supply. And fleets of autonomous drones might be able to tackle such a problem at scale,” says Grant. Plus, he was also thinking about his children, living during an unprecedented era for planet earth.

“There was a genuine desire to leave the world to my kids better off than it was left to me,” he said during an interview at Toronto’s Collision conference.

And so KiDrone was soon born, with a mission to drop enough seeds to truly make a difference. But not just haphazardly. To ensure the best results, seeding would need to be targeted – with the correct species dropped in locations best suited to their survival and the broader ecosystem. Plus, the seeds would need to be coated.

“Seed encapsulation technology has been around for a very long time, but mainly in the agricultural sphere, not much for the reforestation or restorations sphere,” explains Fatima Mahmud, KiDrone’s Chief Scientific Officer. Mahmud is an environmental scientist born in the Middle East and who studied at the University of California, Berkeley, before obtaining her Masters degree in Toronto.

“Some of the reasons for encapsulating a seed, for aerial seeding specifically, is number one: It increases the flowability of the seed through the (dispersal) mechanism. Number two: It adds weight to the seed so the seed drops to the site. You can also add materials or compounds to the encapsulation that can deter pests and predators. And making the seed uniform allows it to find a suitable microsite in the soil once it’s dispursed.”

Below: Encapsulated seeds at KiDrone’s Collision display




KiDrone seeds



Going from an idea to a viable product or service is a voyage – just ask any Startup. And the first part of KiDrone’s path has been to demonstrate that this is a viable, doable solution.

“It’s been a two-year journey to validate our hypothesis and validate where direct seedings works and where it doesn’t work,” explains CEO Grant. “Because direct seeding isn’t a cure-all for all reforestation needs. It’s highly effective in many situations – but not all.”

Post-wildfires (and Canada has had many this year), is a very promising use-case. Grant says high-intensity fires can consume the natural seed inventory that might be on the forest floor.

“So there’s a need for direct seeding at that point. Where direct seeding struggles is in drought-prone conditions,” he says.




It’s not that difficult to deliver seeds via a drone. In fact, some companies have been dropping seeds and seed pods successfully. What differentiates KiDrone is its planned use of AI – and a proprietary seed dispenser capable of holding the seeds of 12 different species and disbursing them selectively. By examining multiple data points during flight, the drone will autonomously dispense the seeds best suited to particular locations based on the mission profile.

“There’s thousands of data points for any given site – climactic, GIS, various forms of imagery or LiDAR, soil lab results – an endless amount of data you can get to classify or gain conditions on a site,” explains Grant.

“And that will all lead to whether certain species may or may not be optimal (for a specific location), and what other species might be supportive. Our AI will be able to determine which trees are more likely to succeed in which areas. Because we’re not interested in monoculture or pine nurseries. We’re very interested in a more holistic reforestation approach that includes many different species, supported species, and Indigenous species of medicinal worth and spiritual worth.”

That last part is very important to KiDrone.

“Our biggest commitment is to work alongside the Indigenous communities where we operate. It’s their land and it’s their traditional territory. They should be the ones directing how reforestation happens. We simply view our roles as facilitating the reforestation goals that they have.”

Below: Founder/CEO Trevor Grant at the Collision conference.





It’s clear, speaking with CEO Grant, the company is working toward its goal via a methodical, evidence-driven trajectory. There’s been a lot of work on seed encapsulation so far though a partnership with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), as well as a flight using a crewed helicopter for dropping encapsulated seeds. It successfully seeded 40 hectares.

“Our largest concern is validating where the seeds will grow, not where the drone will fly,” he says. “We’re concerned about the science behind encapsulation and determining where it’s effective to seed and where it’s not. We’re putting the science first, because we’re looking to do this for the next 20 years and not simply flip a carbon offset project.”

Existing startups doing seeding tend to use multi-rotor designs, which limits the distance they can cover per mission. Here, KiDrone differentiates itself by planning to use a much longer-range drone. The company has established a relationship with Scheibel, a manufacturer of UAVs (and landmine detectors). The company has a long-range uncrewed helicopter called the S-100. It can carry 50 kilograms of payload (seeds plus dispersal mechanism), and has an incredible range – up to 1000 kilometres, says Grant.

“The great thing about having such a large airframe that we’re looking to deploy – we’re able to carry 12 different species in one flight,” he says.

“So mid-flight, while travelling at 100 kilometres an hour, the system will be able to disperse an entirely different species, change the ratio of species being disbursed, add different nitrogen fixers or supportive species, all autonomously, based on AI and a seed-planting pattern that is pre-loaded to the mission.”


Below: A seedling that germinated from one of KiDrone’s encapsulated seeds. Image courtesy of KiDrone




There can be no question there’s an environmental demand for reforestation at scale. KiDrone’s pitch deck states “Reforestation in Canada is broken.

“Since 2010, Canadians have lost more than 44 million hectares of tree cover due to timber harvesting, wildfires, and commercial development. This represents an urgent, unmet need and opportunity to radically transform how industry & government deliver and scale reforestation in Canada.”

And with the devastating and deadly wildfires of 2023, the country has lost even more of that tree cover. The current system, of using human beings to plant seedlings, simply cannot keep up with the demand. It’s also inefficient – and there are vast tracts of forest in Canada that are simply inaccessible.

The big forestry companies also tend to have reforestation deficits, where they simply have not been able to reforest at a rate equal to the harvesting of timber. Plus, the KiDrone deck points out, “Corporate Canada’s demand for carbon offset opportunities vastly outweigh the current supply.”

So there’s not only an environmental imperative, but there’s also a strong business case. The company has been targeting three different sectors:

  • Top 12 Canadian forestry companies, each with reforestation requirements > 25k hectares
  • Federal & provincial forestry departments “focused on post-wildfire timber supply mitigation”
  • Carbon credit offset buyers and sellers

It all equals huge demand for a service like this, says Grant.

“Endless,” he says. “I think the wildfires we’ve had to date are a good example of of how large the reforestation required is in Canada alone – let alone globally.”

The company’s business model projects dropping 10k seeds per hectare in the future, with a 20 per cent viability rate. That comes out to 2,000 trees per hectare, at $.50 per tree. That’s $1,000 per hectare. Based on operating one drone and starting operations in 2024, its revenue projections climb to more than $1.2M by 2026 – and that’s with a single drone deployed. And because costs are low when compared with traditional tree seeding/planting methods, nearly all of that revenue would be profit.

The company is currently in a seed round (and we’re talking capital here, not trees), which its hoping to close late this summer or early fall. Once complete, there will be some additional immediate hires and KiDrone will be in “an early operational state.”

Grant is aware that BVLOS permission won’t be automatic, so he anticipates some of the early deployments will be VLOS, or operating with specific SFOCs.



We’ve been through the Startup path, and know of the many challenges that come with the territory. But we also know a good idea when we see it. KiDrone has clearly identified its market and has laid out a solid path to commercialisation. It’s also a perfect application of autonomous technology for the Three Ds – taking on jobs that are dirty, dull and dangerous.

“In an era of climate change and with record-setting temperatures, getting more trees on the planet at scale helps all of us. I see this as definitely a Drones For Good application,” says Indro Robotics CEO Philip Reece. “I also really like seeing that KiDrone is taking it slow with an evidence-based approach – and a solid business plan. I look forward to hearing about their first deployment.”

You can learn more about KiDrone here.

Public perception of drones mixed depending on use-cases

Public perception of drones mixed depending on use-cases

By Scott Simmie


What does the public think about drones?

That’s a very good question. And the answer has implications for the industry at large.

Is the public ready to embrace drones becoming a more ubiquitous part of everyday life? Are people ready for drones to be flying overhead in urban settings – whether they’re gathering data, delivering critical supplies, or simply dropping off a bagel and latte for the sake of convenience?

As the industry moves ahead to more routine Beyond Visual Line of Sight Flights utilising pre-programmed and autonomous technologies, the answer – or answers – could have a significant impact on the speed of adoption.

Do people want drones buzzing in their neighbourhoods? WING certainly had some pushback when it began trials of convenience deliveries in Australia. And what about concerns over privacy?

There are plenty of questions. And some intriguing answers.

Below: InDro delivers prescriptions to remote Gulf Island communities in a trial using drones for critical deliveries of medications

Public Perception of Drones



Before we dive into the nuts and bolts, some context: We’ll be referring to two scientific papers just published by Canadian-led research teams based out or Carleton University in Ottawa. One of these papers reviews existing research and draws conclusions, while the other involves original data on public perceptions gathered in Canada. Though we’ll dip into both, we’ll focus primarily on the paper called “Public perception of remotely piloted aircraft systems in Canada” – which appears in the May 2023 issue of Technology In society.

That study was authored by Dr. Nick Tepylo, Leilah Debelle, and Jeremy Laliberté. Dr. Tepylo is both a pilot and an aircraft systems engineer who holds a PhD; Professor Jeremy Laliberté leads a 22-person Carleton research group that focusses on the advanced use of drones and Advanced Air Mobility (AAM). Leilah Debelle is a research assistant (Co-op) in the Department of Psychology.

Together, this group carried out the first original research on this topic in Canada since 2014. Back then, there was considerable opposition to drones. As the paper’s abstract points out:

“The last major survey performed in Canada was done in 2014 and found the public was rather opposed to the use of drones and preferred traditionally piloted aircraft in all 38 applications polled. Much has changed over the past eight years as the findings presented herein show the public is supportive of the technology in most applications… Applications of drones that were perceived to further the public interest such as search and rescue, firefighting, and climate research were also viewed more positively. Most drone user groups were viewed favorably except for journalists and corporations.”

Below: A Draganfly drone designed for medical deliveries


Canada Drones



Well, in large part, it depends on what use-cases are involved.

The respondents in the survey (there were 1,022), showed a clear preference for use-cases such as Search and Rescue, disaster response and scientific research. At the bottom of the list? Drone delivery.

We spoke with Jeremy Laliberté about the results; he agreed that people surveyed were more inclined to support what could be termed “positive” use-case scenarios.

“In general, the public is accepting of these technologies, but it varies strongly,” says Laliberté.

“If you look at the Canadian context, who is using the RPAS influences heavily the level of acceptance. So for example, public safety applications, Search and Rescue, things that are for the public good…have very high levels of acceptance. And we found in our literature review, that’s also the case in other countries.”

Intuitively, that makes sense. But what are the applications where the public is less likely to embrace drone use?

“Where the acceptance falls off, interestingly enough, is around delivery – delivery of just regular goods and services…packages, parcels, things like that. As well as journalism – using drones to monitor the public in any way or for news gathering – those get lower levels of acceptance,” he says.

You can see the varying levels of acceptance, pending use-cases, in the graphic below from the research paper. About 87 per cent of respondents strongly or somewhat support use-cases like Search and Rescue, firefighting and disaster response. Only 1.6 per cent of respondents oppose the use of drones in these scenarios.

“At the other end of the spectrum, package delivery had the lowest level of support with 44.9% in favor, 25.7% opposed, and 29.4% neither supporting nor opposing this mission type,” states the paper.

“Newsgathering and surveillance missions received just shy of 60 per cent support, while all other missions received at least 75% support. Additionally, only three missions (newsgathering, surveillance, and package delivery) received more than 10% opposition.”


Canada Drones



The research also asked about the potential misuse or drones. Three different scenarios were presented to respondents: The use of drones for smuggling, flights over public spaces and flights over residential properties.

“Participants were most concerned about the potential misuse of RPAS by smugglers with 34.1% expressing a high level of concern and an additional 44.2% indicating a moderate level of concern,” states the report.

Reported cases of smuggling usually involve criminals dropping contraband into prison facilities. So while there is concern about such activities, these use-cases are generally rare and don’t directly impact members of the public or legitimate drone service providers. Arguably more relevant to the industry is concerns about flights over public spaces and homes, with the latter something that could become routine if and when urban drone deliveries take place.

Canada Drones



Respondents were given the opportunity to get a little more specific about their concerns, with the option of entering their thoughts in a text box. Of the 1022 people surveyed, 611 (nearly 60 per cent) took the opportunity to offer additional information. And it’s clear: People are concerned about privacy.

“Responses relating to privacy concerns were the most common with 58.3% of responses highlighting some sort of privacy concern. Privacy was the most common word used, followed by variations of the words spy and surveillance,” states the report.

“Other words such as filming, video, pictures, etc. were entered and included under the privacy category. Government users were the most mentioned user of concern, followed by law enforcement, and hobbyists. Other issues raised related to the risk of collisions or drones falling out of the sky, hacking and cybersecurity, misuse by criminals, and the potential for weaponizing drones to target civilians.”

And there’s a lesson here, says Laliberté, for service providers. The public wants to know what these devices are doing when in public spaces or over residences, and what data is being collected.

“Things like package delivery…those are the ones (use-cases) where there will definitely need to be clear and transparent sharing of information: What are you doing? Who’s operating the aircraft? What kind of data is being collected? How’s the data being protected?” he says.

“I think the operators will have to be proactive about that sort of thing and really sort of get out there and explain their operations and be clear and transparent, and explain what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and how they’ve ensured that it’s safe.”

Laliberté suggests it could also be useful for drone operators in such use-cases to clearly mark their drones with company names and/or colors so that the devices can be identified from the ground. That way they’re not seen as an anonymous device with an unknown operator – which could contribute to concern/suspicion.

Below: First Responders operate a drone while trying to locate a missing person

Canada Drones



It’s not just Canadians who have concerns about privacy. The paper cited three other research papers – two from the United States and one from Switzerland – that showed similar concerns.

“Similar to other democratic countries, the Canadians surveyed in this study expressed privacy concerns regarding the use of RPAS. Most of these concerns were related to surveillance by individuals, news organizations, or the government,” states the paper.

“The major concern with government users and law enforcement is surveillance, while with corporate entities, data collection for marketing is the largest concern, whereas with hobbyists, people are concerned about potential spying and recording of one’s actions. Future policy should be written to address each of these unique scenarios to improve the social acceptance of drones.”

The research also found there are differences in public acceptance based on perceived use of drones. If the drones can be obviously seen as a tool, their deployment is likely to be seen more favorably when compared with other forms of sensor-based data acquisition.

“The Dutch team of Bart Engberts and Edo Gillissen make the designation between the use of drones for sensory applications and their use as a tool,” explains Dr. Tepylo.

“Applications falling under the tool category such as using drones for firefighting or disaster monitoring typically have higher levels of support; however, the public is more weary when drones are used for sensory applications. These could include crime scene surveillance and even using drones to issue speeding tickets. People are used to a certain level of privacy and when drones are added to the mix, even without knowing how the drones are being used, they feel that their privacy is being taken from them.”




It’s worth noting that the Carleton research indicates a shift in public opinion since the last major Canadian survey on the topic in 2014. People are more supportive of drones across all use-cases, with very strong support for First Responder use, disaster response and scientific research.

Also worth noting is that younger people and those with a background in RPAS tend to be more supportive than older Canadians and those who are less familiar with the technology. It also appears that words matter: The study used the word “drone” in half of its surveys and “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” in the other half. Those surveyed were significantly more likely to support use-cases when the word “drone” was used rather than “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.”

In fact, users were asked to identify their feelings on spotting a “drone” vs. an “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” in the sky. People were more excited at the prospect of seeing something identified as a drone than an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Women expressed less enthusiasm than men regardless of the word used, and far greater concern than men at seeing an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

And why is that? The research revealed that more people are familiar with the term “drone” and could easily identify a quadcopter and associate it with the word. There was more confusion around “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” – with respondents more likely to associate that term with a military device such as a Global Hawk.

Public Perception of Drones



At the outset, we mentioned that there was a second paper which reviewed existing literature around public perceptions. Entitled “Public perception of advanced aviation technologies: A review and roadmap to acceptance,” the paper was published in April of 2023. In addition to Dr. Nick Tepylo and Professor Jeremy Laliberté (who authored the Canadian study), they were joined by Dr. Anna Straubinger from the Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research. In addition to drones, the review paper covers public perceptions of Urban Air Mobility and such technologies as air taxis (where Anna Straubinger has extensive expertise).

Because this is a long-ish post already, we’ll briefly hit some of the takeaways. The following highlights are taken directly from the review paper:

  • Interest in public perception of drones has been increasing since 2015
  • Awareness of drones is between 93 and 97% in North American and European countries
  • Support for drones increases with the level of awareness among the population
  • Support for air taxis has steadily increased and sits around 40–60%
  • Improving public perception is the key to widespread adoption of the technology



Interestingly, the data shows that public perception can be influenced by where you live. In Switzerland, for example, support for package deliveries was 18 per cent. In Singapore, meanwhile, support was in the low 80s. High rates of public acceptance, says Professor Laliberté, will likely lead to earlier adoption in those countries – including technology such as air taxis.

“Especially with Urban Air Mobility (UAM) some of the initial trials were being done and proposed in countries where definitely the level of acceptance is higher,” he says. And as for Singapore and package deliveries?

“Singapore is relatively small, high density, and fairly urban. So it actually makes sense to try these (use-cases) out in some of these areas.”

Even a single drone service provider, doing work that’s perceived as good, can influence overall acceptance rates – which ultimately impact speed of adoption.

“Despite the lack of research data, Africa is a very promising location for the adoption of drone technology due to the work of Zipline,” says Dr. Tepylo.

“The company operates two medical supply distribution centres in Rwanda which can provide coverage for most of the country. When they see a drone in the sky, many Rwandans think of the potential life-saving mission that vehicle is completing so reactions are very positive. If the Zipline model is able to be replicated in other parts of Africa and rural areas around the world, it has the potential to accelerate the adoption of drones globally.”

Below: Graphic showing public acceptance of various use-cases by country. Locations with higher rates of public acceptance could well adopt these technologies at scale sooner than those with lower acceptance rates

Canada Drones



We’re pleased to see these new papers – and particularly pleased to see researchers from Carleton University taking a lead in this field. These findings are tremendously useful to operators – and offer some useful takeaways when it comes to being transparent about operations due to the level of concerns around privacy. It’s also clear that public perceptions can play a role in influencing regulators when it comes to the pace of change.

At InDro, we’ve long emphasised what we would term ‘positive’ use-case scenarios. These include specialized products and training for First Responders, trials of prescription medication and COVID test supplies via drone – even the delivery of Automated External Defibrillators. It’s nice to see that these use-cases strongly align with high levels of public acceptance/support.

“It may well be inevitable that packages are delivered in urban settings down the road,” says InDro Robotics CEO Philip Reece. “But that’s still several years away. We see greater importance in delivering critical supplies like medications to cut-off and isolated communities and in developing specialised drones for First Responders and scientific data acquisition. We also believe these are the kinds of use-cases that – at least for the moment – are more likely to be viewed as both useful and safer when it comes to Transport Canada and BVLOS permissions.”

We recommend taking a deeper dive into this excellent research. You’ll find the paper on Canadian perceptions here, and the review paper on broader global data here.

Indro Robotics provides live drone video feed at Montreal Marathon in pilot medical project

Indro Robotics provides live drone video feed at Montreal Marathon in pilot medical project

By Scott Simmie


The Montreal Marathon, 2022 edition, was held over the weekend. The main event, the signature 42-kilometre run, took place early Sunday. And three InDro Robotics engineers were there.

They weren’t running, but were instead providing a live feed from drones. Those live feeds were being monitored on large video monitors by dedicated research assistants. They were assessing the quality of the feeds and their usefulness in detecting runners who might be in need of medical assistance.

Below: Team InDro, wearing safety vests, with Montreal Marathon runners on the right

Montreal Marathon

Research project


InDro became involved with this through Dr. Valérie Homier, an Emergency Physician at McGill University Health Centre. She has long had an interest in how drones can be used in the health care sector, and has collaborated with InDro on two previous research projects.

One of those projects evaluated whether drones or ground delivery could transport simulated blood products more efficiently to a trauma facility – the Montreal General Hospital. Drones were faster.

The second project studied whether drones could help identify swimmers in distress at an IRONMAN event in Mont-Tremblant. You can find that research here.

With the Montreal Marathon coming up, Dr. Homier knew there would likely be medical events. There generally are.

“In these long-distance sporting events there are usually some significant injuries, including cardiac events and heat strokes,” she says.

These tend to be more likely in the later phases of events like marathons, after the athlete has already been under stress for an extended time. The thinking was that perhaps drones could be a useful tool.

Dr. Homier was particularly interested in whether two drones in the air, covering two critical segments toward the end of the marathon, could provide useful data. Specifically, would the live video feed be consistent enough in quality and resolution to be a useful tool?

This pilot aimed to find out.

Below: An uphill segment near the Montreal Marathon finish line. This is was the target area for one of the Indro Robotics drones 


Montreal Marathon

InDro’s role


There was a lot of planning required for the mission to ensure the drones could provide continuous coverage and be safe for flying in an area with so many people. Project Manager Irina Saczuk (who happens to also be an RN) worked closely with Dr. Homier to help figure out the nuts and bolts of the InDro side of things.

InDro assigned three employees from the Area X.O facility to the project: Software developers Ella Hayashi and Kaiwen Xu, along with mechatronics specialist Liam Dwyer. All three hold Advanced RPAS certificates and took part in planning meetings to understand the mission and their roles. They also looked into optimising the drones’ video feeds to ensure the best quality would reach those monitoring remotely on large screens.

“At big-scale events such as this marathon, lots of people could go down with injuries,” says InDro’s Ella Hayashi. “But it can be hard to get timely support because roads are blocked. So drones have the potential to really help with sharing the precise location and other information when a person may need help.”

Worth noting here: The InDro engineers/pilots were not to be actively ‘looking’ for people in medical distress. Their role was simply to pilot the drones at the assigned locations and maintain a video feed that offered those watching the large-screen monitors with good situational awareness. In the event of an emergency, the pilots were to follow instructions, including moving in closer to a runner in distress.


Sub-250 grams


The team took four DJI Mini 2 drones to Montreal. Though InDro has a fleet of much larger and sophisticated drones the company has built, these consumer drones were perfect for the job. That’s because the Mini 2 is a sub-250 gram drone that can be flown near and over people. In the exceedingly rare event of a failure, the small device is unlikely to cause any substantial injury to someone on the ground. They’re also capable of very good video quality.

The team also used a third-party app – Airdata – to carry the video streams. The app created secure links for each drone’s feed that could be shared with those who would be monitoring the feed. Three drones were to be used in rotation so that two drones were always in the air providing live video at any given time. A fourth drone was onsite for backup.

“We modified the parameters and were streaming in 720p,” explains Dwyer. “We selected a lower resolution because on the bigger screen it didn’t have to be crystal clear but it needed to be smooth.”

There was, initially, some concern over whether the local LTE network would be able to handle the feed due to the large number of people using cellphones to capture and stream from the finish line.

“The night before the mission, a medical person told us there were going to be 20,000 people around the stadium,” says Xu. “We were worried about network connectivity, it was possible that our video streaming would not work. But actually the network was pretty good that day.”

Below is a drone selfie of the InDro team: From left to right, Kaiwen Xu, Ella Hayashi, Liam Dwyer


Live Drone Video Feed

A useful exercise


Remember: This was simply a pilot project to determine if drones could provide a clean video stream that might be useful. The pilots were to focus on hovering the drones in two specific adjacent locations, with some overlap in their video to ensure they were not missing a spot of this critical part of the marathon.

“Our job was 100 per cent flying the drones,” says Dwyer. “Just straightforward, wide-angle shots with all runners in the field of view.”

We should mention here that InDro also took part in a simulated cardiac event prior to the marathon reaching this area. A medical dummy was placed in a location and one of the drone pilots was instructed to get closer for a better look. A small electric vehicle – think a large golf cart adapted for First Responder use – was dispatched. Chest compressions were performed on the dummy, which was then loaded into the vehicle. A drone followed as the vehicle drove to a nearby stadium and the victim was transported inside to the treatment area. The feed gave others on the Medi-Drone team an opportunity to see, in real-time, the progress of the patient’s arrival.

“The drone response really gave them an active timeline of when they should expect to receive this patient,” says Dwyer.

So the drones proved useful during a simulation. But how would they perform with runners during the actual marathon?

Below: The downhill segment monitored by InDro Robotics

Montreal Marathon Drone Video

From simulation to real-world


As the lead runners came in, the field wasn’t crowded. But, of course, it would become more congested.

When athletes are moving together en masse like this, Dr. Homier says there’s a certain flow that can be observed from the drone. Because that flow is consistent and smooth, a runner in distress literally pops up as looking out of place.

And it happened. Those watching the live feed spotted someone who appeared to be in distress. They had stopped, were hanging on to a railing on the side of the course. Then they fell over the railing, dropping to the grass. A drone pilot was asked to move in for a closer look. It was clear this runner needed help.

In fact, while the pilots were intended to simply hover their drones, Dr. Homier had anticipated such a scenario, and built it into the protocol for the pilot project. Suddenly, an InDro pilot had become part of a First Responder team, providing much-needed situational awareness.

“It was embedded in the research protocol, that eyes on the event becomes what is required,” she explains. “It was called into dispatch and pilots were able to provide eyes on the incident. That was amazing; dispatch came down after and brought us a radio.”


Lessons learned


For Dr. Homier, there’s still work ahead and a lot of data to be analyzed.

“There’s a lot to learn from this project, and there’s a way forward for multiple surveillance methods,” she says.  “And the drones are way up there. The view from above when monitoring moving crowds is just incomparable.”

Plus, says Dr. Homier, the project sparked a tremendous amount of interest from other healthcare professionals on site.

“The interest was incredible, coming from the drone pilots, the students, the medical directors, the medical staff – they all thought it was so cool,” she says.

“We’re talking about 250 people involved in the medical team. Many came to see the viewing station, so in terms of letting people know about this new use of the technology – that was also a great success.”

Below: Mission accomplished! Team InDro is joined by key members of the marathon’s medical response team for this post-race drone selfie

Montreal Marathon

InDro’s take


We’re proud to be involved with this project – just as we’re proud to have collaborated previously with Dr. Valérie Homier on other research projects involving drones. In fact, we find this kind of research particularly meaningful.

“For us, using drones for good is much more than a catchy hashtag,” says InDro Robotics CEO Philip Reece. “Aerial and ground robots can perform so many useful tasks. We’ve helped securely deliver prescriptions to remote locations, COVID test supplies, and more. But playing a role in helping to ensure that someone in medical distress receives timely assistance is up near the top of the list. We look forward to the next project with Dr. Homier.”

And nice job, Ella, Kaiwen and Liam.

PS: We’ve issued a news release about this project. You can read it here.



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.

First Responders find drones invaluable tools

First Responders find drones invaluable tools

By Scott Simmie

It’s no secret that drones have become an essential tool for many First Responders.

Emergency services frequently use these devices to obtain situational awareness – also known as “The Big Picture.” Police departments deploy them to search for missing people, locate suspects, monitor protests and collect images following serious collisions in order to clear the scene more quickly. Fire departments use them to monitor fires, detect hot spots, hazardous spills and more. And paramedics? Well, they’re using them too.

In fact, paramedics in Ontario used a drone – as first reported in this story – to assist during a Search and Rescue operation on a cold winter’s night early in 2022. Specifically, it was members of the Hastings Quinte Paramedic Services based in Belleville, Ontario.

Not surprisingly, that got us interested. And so we contacted Mike Slatter, Deputy Chief of Quality and Development, to find out more. As it turns out, we’d seen Deputy Chief Slatter make a presentation about drones back in 2019 in Ottawa at the annual national convention of Unmanned Systems Canada (now the Aerial Evolution Association of Canada).

We were really eager to learn more about how his team came to use drones. And, more specifically, how it uses them in some of its day-to-day operations. We found what Mike Slatter had to say fascinating – and believe you will, as well. FYI, that’s Deputy Chief Slatter in the image below, bringing in a drone for landing.

First Responder Drones

Paramedics do more than you might realize…


We started this off with a simple question. What do paramedics do?

Deputy Chief Slatter explained that in the case of Hastings Quinte Paramedic Services, there’s much more to the job than car crashes or calls to homes and businesses. Its rural catchment area means hunting accidents or injuries on farms crop up. The paramedics also assist local fire departments, sometimes offering medical assistance to firefighters who have just emerged from the heat and smoke of an active fire.

What’s more, Canadian Forces Base Trenton is nearby, and the service responds to calls there. Slatter’s team has also worked with members of the CFB Trenton Search and Rescue team, and sometimes receives occasional calls from CFB Mountain View, an airfield which also has a parachute jumping site.

That’s not all. Come summer, the area fills up with vacationers. There are boating accidents, drownings, injuries on the beach and more. So the workload involves a lot more than car accidents.

Drones enter the picture


With the help of a federal program, the paramedic service got into the drone world in 2018. Members of the service first did online training through InDro Robotics, followed by in-person flight instruction with InDro staff.

“I was fully impressed,” says Slatter. “Philip’s team was very professional; I thought it was very reassuring that Philip is so connected on the cutting edge of what’s going on with drones and safety. The experience was invaluable.”

Since then, the Service has deployed its DJI Matrice 210 and Mavic Pro Enterprise on a variety of missions, including Search and Rescue, house fires (using FLIR thermal imaging to detect hotspots), and even at a high school lockdown for situational awareness.

But not every drone mission is a dramatic, slam-dunk with a high-profile rescue. The real utility, says Slatter, is the ability to provide First Responders with that ‘big picture’ situational awareness.

“It gives you such a different perspective as to what’s going on,” he says. “The field of vision during the day is just amazing, and the camera technology is quite useful for zooming in and looking at things more closely to determine what’s happening.”

Let’s zoom in ourselves, and take a closer look at two recent incidents involving Hastings Quinte Paramedic Services.

First Responder Drones

Friday, January 28


Someone calls 9-1-1. They think they hear someone out on the ice at the Bay of Quinte calling for help.

It was still daytime, but the ice had a thick covering of snow – which would have made searching on foot a slow and laborious task. There was also a lot of ground to potentially cover, dotted with the occasional ice fishing hut. To give you a sense of scale, most of those huts were at least two kilometres from the shore.

“The Fire Department was there with their iceboat and team,” says Slatter. “The area we were looking at probably had a radius of five kilometres.”

With excellent visibility and a drone remote control monitor designed for high visibility even on sunny days, Slatter and his colleagues could monitor a live high-resolution video feed from the drone. With a background of snow and ice, it was relatively easy to scan fairly large areas as the drone flew overhead.

Scenarios like this make the drone what’s often termed a “force multiplier” – meaning the information it was gathering was greater than a single person could have acquired on their own. It also meant the Fire Department could pull its team back from the ice to wait on shore. There was no point in slogging on foot for kilometres when the drone could do the job.

Did it find someone? No. But it also revealed that no one appeared to be in distress in the reported area. That information was valuable for all the First Responders: Resources would not be expended where they were not required.

“Essentially nobody had to go out on the ice and it saved a lot of time – taking it from being an operation that would have taken several hours to about an hour or an hour and half,” says Slatter. “We were also able to cover areas along the shore that would have been difficult to get to, as well.”

Monday, January 31


Another emergency call, this time as dusk was approaching. A person who had been searching for a runaway dog had become lost in the Sandbanks Provincial Park. The Ontario Provincial Police also received the call, and asked the paramedics if they could bring their drone. The OPP, as it turns out, had limited resources due to the protests in Ottawa. Because of that, an OPP helicopter that might normally have been put to use was unavailable.

The OPP dispatched search teams on an All-Terrain Vehicle, and suggested a location where the drone might be most helpful. The paramedics launched their Matrice into the dark sky.

The drone’s FLIR thermal sensor is designed to detect differing levels of heat on the ground: The brighter the image, the warmer the object.

Thermal cameras are incredibly useful for finding missing persons at night, when the ground is cooler than during the daytime. A human being will display a relatively bright heat signature that contrasts the ground. In this case, you can see a paramedic ATV that seats two, also known as a Side-by-Side. Slatter scanned the area, searching for a bright spot that might indicate a person.

Emergency Response Drones

The drone was flown back for a battery swap, and then it was returned to the air. An OPP K9 unit had discovered some tracks that matched the description of the boots of the missing person. They were fresh. The OPP and paramedics, each in their own ATVs, began following those tracks toward a beach area. Slatterly returned the drone to the sky and began following the searchers while monitoring a much wider area from above.

“There are lakes on two sides of the area we were in,” says Slatter. “Because there are sand dunes, with the ice buildup there’s a lot of crevices along the shoreline. So the main concern was that the person had fallen or laid down due to being tired. By being up in the sky we could see a greater view than just a single person on the ground.”

Drone Detection

As the second set of batteries became exhausted and paramedics were returning the drone, word came in: The missing person had been located elsewhere.

‘Hey’ – you might think. ‘The drone didn’t find them.’ No, it didn’t – because they weren’t in the search area. But that is *precisely* the point in this case. The drone provided accurate intelligence that the missing person was not in a location being searched.

And that is absolutely valuable information that assisted First Responders.


“(It was) Very useful,” says Slatter. “We were able to cover a larger area and  eliminate areas where we felt the person wasn’t.”

And so, in these recent two examples – both occuring within a week – paramedics dispatched drones. These cases might not grab headlines in the way a dramatic rescue might, but the drone provided valuable data. What’s more, these examples are highly illustrative of just how much a part of the daily First Responder toolkit drones are becoming.


What’s next?


Drones are clearly now part of the workflow, when required. There’s also no question that the technology continues to advance. InDro Robotics, for example, has conducted numerous trials using drones to transport Automated External Defibrillators, transporting them to the scene of a simulated cardiac arrest. Drones tend to get there significantly faster than a paramedic vehicle. InDro has also delivered critical pharmaceutical supplies, such as an EpiPen (used to treat severe allergic reactions that can prove fatal) or Narcan (Naloxone HCI nasal spray), used for opioid overdoses.

You can see an example of this kind of work here:

And the future?


With successful trials of AED deliveries and pharmaceuticals delivered Beyond Visual Line of Sight, it’s not a huge leap to envision a future where such flights are routine. Where, for example, a 9-1-1 call for cardiac arrest might simultaneously dispatch an autonomous or remotely piloted drone to the site of the call. Or where an Epipen reaches someone in respiratory distress within minutes.

It’s a future Deputy Chief Mike Slatter believes could well be on the horizon as an important tool for First Responders.

“I think we are definitely on the cusp of that happening,” he says – adding that the Hastings Quinte Paramedic Services has purchased its own small AED for its drone.

“I think the potential for a small First Aid Kit or Narcan (delivered by drone), especially in the rural areas like we have here, definitely would have benefits… I think getting that device to a person even a couple of minutes ahead of a responding ambulance or First Responder could make a difference for a person.”

Slatter also has some final words about InDro’s training.

“It was very reassuring that (CEO) Philip (Reece) is so connected on the cutting edge of what’s going on with drones and safety,” he says. “You see a lot of different companies out there advertising drone training. And it calls into question: What is the standard for a training service? And I think that’s where InDro has set the benchmark. Our program really has credibility because of the training that we did with InDro.”

InDro’s Take


InDro Robotics has both deep respect for and a proud tradition of working with First Responders. We’ve helped train and outfit paramedics, RCMP and others across Canada, building solid relationships along the way. Drones have become an indispensable tool for Emergency Services, aiding in rapid decision-making, keeping First Responders out of harm’s way – and even saving lives. With advances in drone technology and ground robotics, we’re confident these devices will become an even more essential part of their toolkit in the future.

If you are a First Responder looking to gain drone skills or upgrade the skills of your team, there are a couple of InDro options. You can gain the knowledge required for your Basic or Advanced Remotely Piloted Aircraft Certificate online through an InDro course here. We also provide in-person instruction, anywhere in the world. Please get in touch.


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