TLR – Technology Readiness Levels – explained

TLR – Technology Readiness Levels – explained

By Scott Simmie


So: You’ve got a great idea for a new technology product or process.

That’s the first step: A concept that you’ve put some thought into. Of course, there’s a long road ahead before that brilliant idea becomes an actual commercial product. But how do you gauge that progress as you move along the development path? How would you describe where you’re at in a way that others might quickly grasp?

Luckily, there’s a tool for that. It’s called the Technology Readiness Levels scale, or TRL.

“It’s a standard measuring stick for everyone to communicate where they are with development,” explains InDro Robotics Engineering Lead Arron Griffiths.

The TRL tool was first developed by NASA researcher Stan Sadin back in 1974 with seven basic levels. It would take another 15 years before the levels were formally defined, during which time two additional levels were added. There are now nine steps up the ladder, where TRL 9 is the equivalent of a working product that could be mass-produced or commercialized.

Which means, of course, that Level 1 is at the very beginning of the technology development process.

“Level 1 is universally seen as a napkin idea – where you’ve jotted down a concept,” says Griffiths.

That’s a perfect analogy for TRL 1.

For greater clarity, each level on the scale offers a short definition, a description, and examples of activities. The short definition for Level 1 is “Basic Principles Observed and Reported.” The description is “Lowest level of technology readiness. Scientific research begins to be translated into applied research and development (R&D).”

In terms of examples, Level 1 “Activities might include theoretical studies of a technology’s basic properties.” And yes, that could include a napkin sketch.

Below: Aerospace is one of many industries to use TRLs. The noise-reducing chevron nozzles seen on the cowling below would have gone through each of the nine levels. Photo via Wikimedia Commons by John Crowley.

TRL chevrons



Great! You’ve got that napkin sketch done.

Obviously there’s a lot to do between that initial idea and a finished product suitable for commercialization. To get to TRL 2, you simply need to put more thought into it. You’re not actually building or programming yet, just putting greater clarity and focus on what you hope to accomplish.

TRL 2 is defined as “Technology concept and/or application formulated.” Here’s its description:

“Invention begins. Once basic principles are observed, practical applications can be invented. Applications are speculative, and there may be no proof or detailed analysis to support the assumptions.”

You could think of this stage as refining the idea, with activities limited to research and/or analytical studies.

TRL 3 means you’re actually beginning the R&D process. This might include some lab or analytical studies. At this stage you’re trying to validate predictions you’ve made about separate elements or components of the technology. The components you’re working with aren’t yet integrated – nor is it expected that the components you’re working with are at their final version.


Before we move along, it’s worth noting there are actually two different TRL scales in use. The first (and the one we’re using here) is the NASA scale. But the European Union has its own TRL scale. 

“So there is some cloudiness,” explains Griffiths. “Typically the top and bottom of the scales are the same, but the middle moves around a bit. You have to be sure people are reading from the same scale. Typically when I talk to a client, I will show them the scale I am using.”

Griffiths also emphasizes that during R&D, the phase of development doesn’t always slot neatly into one of the TRL stages. 

“It’s typical to say: ‘We’re roughly about TRL 6’ – it’s not an exact science.”

Below: The InDro Commander module, with LiDAR sensor. This popular commercial product, which allows for rapid integration of ROS-based robots and sensors (and more), is TRL 9.

Teleoperated Robots



American inventor Thomas Edison once said: “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” The same could be said of the process of inventing a product for commercialization. Once that napkin sketch is done (the one per cent), there’s still a lot of methodical slogging ahead. (Trust us, we know.)

TRL 4 is the stage where you’re putting things together. Basic components are integrated and readied for testing in a simulated environment. The short definition, via Canada’s Department of National Defence, is “Component(s)/subsystem(s) and/or process validation in a laboratory environment.”

The logical progression continues with the next step.

“TRL 5 means it’s ready for testing in a lab environment,” explains InDro Lead Engineer Griffiths. He also adds that this middle stage – TRL 4 through 7 – “is always the difficult part.”

Once TRL 5 is passed, it’s time to start seeing if the integrated components will work together in a simulated or lab environment. At this stage, TRL 6, the product is considered to be getting pretty close to its desired configuration. Yes, there will be further tweaking to come, but you’re getting there.

Below: InDro’s Street Smart Robot (the large white unit). The product has been built but not yet deployed in winter conditions. This would be at TRL 7. Every other robot in this image would have made it to TRL 9.


SSR Street Smart Robot



All that hard work has been paying off. Your product is assembled and has been tested in simulation or other lab environment. Now it’s time to get it out into the real world to see how it performs. Congratulations, you’ve reached TRL 7, where “Prototype system [is] ready (form, fit, and function) for demonstration in an appropriate operational environment.”

“TRL 7 is more like a long-term deployment. Once you can show it to be working in a real-world environment – outside of the lab – then you get to Levels 8 and 9,” says Griffiths.

These final two levels are usually pretty exciting. Once the product/solution has been proven to work in its final form – and in the environment where it’s expected to be deployed as a product – you’ve reached TRL 8. Just one more to go.




Remember that Street Smart Robot you just saw a picture of? Well, it’s ready to go. And once the wintry conditions take hold in Ottawa, we’ll be operating that machine in ice and snow on Ottawa streets. Specifically, on bike lanes in Ottawa, where it will detect hazardous conditions (including potholes) that might pose challenges for safe cycling. City of Ottawa maintenance crews will then be notified of the problem (and its location) so they can address the issue. (You can read more about the SSR here.)

And once the SSR is operating smoothly in those intended conditions? We will have achieved TRL 9, meaning “Actual solution proven through successful deployment in an operational setting.”



It’s easy enough to describe these levels. And in doing so, it can appear to be a straightforward, linear path where engineers move seamlessly from one level to the next. Reality is not quite so simple. Depending on the project, progress in the early stages can be made very rapidly.

“Most people get up to Level 5 fairly quickly,” says Griffiths. “You can even get to Level 5 in a day if you’re doing software development – you can literally go from an idea all the way up to a basic rudimentary prototype.”

But – as flagged earlier – things get a little trickier once you hit those middle levels.

“You can think of it as walking up a hill to Level 5,” he says. “Then there’s this valley. A lot of stuff dies in Level 6 and 7. There’s not a lot of success there because once you push the technology into actual environments the success rate is very low. So a lot of time is spent in Levels 5 and 6 trying to make a system that can make it to Level 7 successfully, and then on to Level 8 – where you’re essentially across the valley.”

Below: A graphic outlines the short definitions of Technology Readiness Levels

Technology Readiness Levels



The TRL scale is extremely useful in the R&D world, in that it concisely conveys where a product is along the path to commercial development. And while it’s great for engineers, it’s also useful to help clients understand where one of our products is along that journey.

We’ve scaled this ladder many times over the years. Sometimes it’s a relatively easy climb. But, like all Research and Development companies, we’ve also had a few products that never made it beyond the valley Arron Griffiths described. That’s R&D.

“The Technology Readiness Level scale is a really useful tool, and part of our daily language at InDro Robotics,” says CEO Philip Reece. “Each level represents unique challenges – and that valley Arron described can sometimes be a disappointing bit of landscape. But we learn something even with the occasional failure.

“Thankfully, we have a creative and tenacious engineering team that seems to thrive on difficult challenges – and InDro now has a growing stable of products that have achieved TRL 9 and gone on to commercial success.”

If you’re working on your own project and would like to know where it is on the TRL scale, you can use this assessment tool from Industry, Science and Economic Development Canada.


uPenn robotics team cleans up at SICK LiDAR competition

uPenn robotics team cleans up at SICK LiDAR competition

By Scott Simmie


There’s nothing we like more than success stories – especially when technology is involved.

So we’re pleased to share news that a team of bright young engineers from the University of Pennsylvania were the winners of a prestigious competition sponsored by SICK, the German-based manufacturer of LiDAR sensors and industrial process automation technology.

The competition is called the SICK TiM $10K Challenge. The competition involves finding innovative new uses for the company’s TiM-P 2D LiDAR sensor. Laser-based LiDAR sensors scan the surrounding environment in real-time, producing highly accurate point clouds/maps. Paired with machine vision and AI, LiDAR can be used to detect objects – and even avoid them.

And that’s a pretty handy feature if your robot happens to an autonomous garbage collector. We asked Sharon Shaji, one of five UPenn team members (all of whom earned their Masters in Robotics this year), for the micro-elevator pitch:

“It’s an autonomous waste collection robot that can be used specifically for cleaning outdoor spaces,” she says.

And though autonomous, it obviously didn’t build itself.

Below: Members of the team during work on the project.

uPenn Sauberbot



When SICK announced the contest, it had a very simple criteria: “The teams will be challenged to solve a problem, create a solution, and bring a new application that utilizes the SICK scanner in any industry.”

SICK received applications from universities across the United States. It then whittled those down to 20 submissions it felt had real potential, and supplied those teams with the TiM-P 270 LiDAR sensor free of charge.

Five students affiliated with UPenn’s prestigious General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Laboratory, or GRASP Lab, put in a team application. It was one of three GRASP lab teams that would receive sensors from SICK.

That Lab is described here as “an interdisciplinary academic and research center within the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. Founded in 1979, the GRASP Lab is a premier robotics incubator that fosters collaboration between students, research staff and faculty focusing on fundamental research in vision, perception, control systems, automation, and machine learning.”

Before we get to building the robot, how do you go about building a team? Do you just put smart people together – or is there a strategy? In this case, there was.

“One thing we all kept in mind when we were looking for teammates was that we wanted someone from every field of engineering,” explains Shaji. In other words, a multidisciplinary team.

“So we have people from the mechanical engineering background, electrical engineering background, computer science background, software background. We were easily able to delegate work to every person. I think that was important in the success of the product. And we all knew each other, so it was like working with best friends.”




And how did the idea come about?

Well, says the team (all five of whom hopped on a video call with InDro Robotics), they noticed a problem in need of a solution. Quite frequently on campus – and particularly after events – they’d noticed that the green space was littered. Cans, bottles, wrappers – you name it.

They also noticed that crews would be dispatched to clean everything up. And while that did get the job done, it wasn’t perhaps the most efficient way of tackling the problem. Nor was it glamorous work. It was arguably a dirty and dull job – one of the perfect types of tasks for a robot to take on.

“Large groups of people were coming in and manually picking up this litter,” says Shaji.

“And we realised that automation was the right way to solve that problem. It’s unhygienic, there are sanitation concerns, and physically exhausting. Robots don’t get tired, they don’t get exhausted…we thought this was the best use-case and to move forward with.”

Below: Working on the mechanical side of things

uPenn SICK Sauberbot



You’d think, with engineers, the first step in this project would have been to kick around design concepts. But the team focussed initially on market research. Were there similar products out there already? Would there be a demand for such a device? How frequently were crews dispatched for these cleanups? How long, on average, does it take humans to carry out the task? How many people are generally involved? Those kinds of questions.

After that process, they began discussing the nuts and bolts. One of the big questions here was: How should the device go about collecting garbage? Specifically, how should it get the garbage off the ground?

“Cleaning outdoor spaces can vary, because outdoor spaces can vary,” says team member Aadith Kumar. “You might have sandy terrain, you might have open parks, you might have uneven terrain. And each of these pose their own problems. Having a vacuum system on a beach area isn’t going to work because you’re going to collect a lot of sand. The vision is to have a modular mechanism.”

A modular design means flexibility: Different pickup mechanisms would be swappable for specific environments without requiring an entirely new robot. A vacuum system might work well in one setting, a system with the ability to individually pick items of trash might work better somewhere else.

The team decided their initial prototype should focus on open park space. And once that decision was made, it became clear that a brush mechanism, which would sweep the garbage from the grass into a collection box, would be the best solution for this initial iteration.

“We considered vacuum, we considered picking it up, we considered targeted suction,” says Kumar. “But at the end of the day, for economics, it needed to be efficient, fast, nothing too complicated. And the brush mechanism is tried and tested.”

Below: Work on the brush mechanism



uPenn SICK Sauberbot



The team decided to call its robot the SauberBOT. “Sauber” is the German word for “clean”. But that sweeping brush mechanism would be just one part of the puzzle. Other areas to be tackled included:

  • Depth perception camera for identifying trash to be picked up
  • LiDAR programmed so that obstacles, including people, could be avoided
  • Autonomy within a geofenced location – ie, the boundaries of the park to be cleaned

There was more, of course, but one of the most important pieces of the puzzle was the robotic platform itself: The means of locomotion. And that’s where InDro Robotics comes in.




Some team members had met InDro Account Executive Luke Corbeth earlier in the year, at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, held in Philadelphia in 2022. Corbeth had some robotic platforms from AgileX – which InDro distributes in North America – at the show. At the time the conference took place, the SICK competition wasn’t yet underway. But the students remembered Corbeth – and vice versa.

Once the team formed and entered the contest, discussions with InDro began around potential platforms.

The team was initially leaning toward the AgileX Bunker – a really tough platform that operates with treads, much like a tank. At first glance, those treads seemed like the ideal form of locomotion because they can operate on many different surfaces.

But Luke steered them in a different direction, toward the (less-expensive) Scout 2.0.

“He was the one who suggested the Scout 2.0,” says Udayagiri.

“We actually were thinking of going for the Bunker – but he understood that for our use-case the Scout 2.0 was a better robot. And it was very easy to work with the Scout.”

Corbeth also passed along the metal box that houses the InDro Commander. This enabled the team to save more time (and potential hassle) by housing all of their internal components in an IP-rated enclosure.

“I wanted to help them protect their hardware in an outdoor environment,” he says. “They had a tight budget, and UPenn is a pretty prominent robotics program in the US.”

But buying from InDro begs the question: Why not build their own? A team of five roboticists would surely be able to design and build something like that, right? Well, yes. But they knew they were going to have plenty of work on their own without having to build something from scratch. Taking this on would divert them from their core R&D tasks.

“We knew we would do it in a month or two,” says the team’s Rithwik Udayagiri. “But that would have left us with less time for market research and actually integrating our product, which is the pickup mechanism. We would have been spending too much time on building a platform. So that’s why we went with a standalone platform.”

It took a little longer than planned to get the recently released Scout 2.0 in the hands of the UPenn team. But because of communication with Luke (along with the InDro-supplied use of the Gazebo robot simulation platform), the team was able to quickly integrate the rest of the system with Scout 2.0 soon after it arrived.

“The entire project was ROS-based (Robot Operating System software), and they used our simulation tools, mainly Gazebo, to start working on autonomy,” explains Corbeth. “Even though it took time to get them the unit, they were ready to integrate their tech and get it out in the field very quickly. That was the one thing that blew me away was how quickly they put it together.”

It wasn’t long before SauberBOT was a reality. The team produced a video for its final submission to SICK. The SauberBOT team took first place, winning $10,000 plus an upcoming trip to Germany, where they’ll visit SICK headquarters.

Oh, and SauberBOT? The team says it cleans three times more quickly than using a typical human crew. 

Here’s the video.




Team SauberBOT knows some people are wary of robots. Some believe they will simply replace human positions and put people out of work.

That’s not the view of these engineers. They see SauberBOT – and other machines like it – as a way of helping to relieve people from boring, physically demanding and even dangerous tasks. They also point out that there’s a labour shortage, particularly in this sector.

“The cleaning industry is understaffed,” reads a note sent by the team. “We choose to introduce automation to the repetitive and mundane aspects of the cleaning industry in an attempt do the tasks that there aren’t enough humans to do.”
And what about potential jobs losses?
“We intend to make robots that aren’t aimed to replace humans,” they write.
“We want to equip the cleaning staff with the tools to handle the mundane part of cleaning outdoor spaces and therefore allow the workforce to target their attention to the more nuanced parts of cleaning which demand human attention.”
In other words, think of SauberBOT as a co-operative robot meant to assist but not replace humans. These are sometimes called “co-bots.” 
Below: Testing out the SauberBOT in the field
UPenn SICK SauberBOT



We’re obviously pleased to have played a small role in the success of the UPenn team. And while we often service very large clients – including building products on contract for some global tech giants – there’s a unique satisfaction that comes from this kind of relationship.

“It’s very gratifying,” says Corbeth. “In fact, it’s the essence of what I try to do: Enable others to build really cool robots.”

The SauberBOT is indeed pretty cool. And InDro will be keeping an eye on what these young engineers do next.

“The engineering grads of today are tomorrow’s startup CEOs and CTOs,” says InDro Robotics Founder/CEO Philip Reece.

“We love seeing this kind of entrepreneurial spirit, where great ideas and skills lead to the development of new products and processes. In a way, it’s similar to what InDro does on a larger scale. Well done, Team SauberBOT – there’s plenty of potential here for a product down the road.”

If you’ve got a project that could use a robotic platform – or any other engineering challenge that taps into InDro’s expertise with ground robots, drones and remote teleoperations – feel free to get in touch with Luke Corbeth here.

Area X.O unveils new simulation portal

Area X.O unveils new simulation portal

By Scott Simmie


Area X.O, the Ottawa facility founded and operated by Invest Ottawa that houses cutting-edge companies involved in robotics and smart mobility R&D, has unveiled a powerful new tool.

It’s a simulation portal that will allow firms to virtually test products under development. Want to put a robot through its paces on the roads at Area X.O to evaluate its propulsion system and battery life? Have a drone overfly and capture data? Maybe you want to test in snow and cold temperatures, despite it being summertime?

Unless you happen to be an Area X.O tenant, carrying out any of these tasks in real life would involve getting permission, getting your product to the site – even waiting for months and taking multiple trips if you wanted to test under a variety of weather conditions. The costs on this would quickly add up, and your development time would stretch.

With the new simulator, you can put your robot or drone (or sensor) through their paces remotely – whether you’re in Ottawa, Vancouver, or even further afield. And you can use the data gathered in the simulator to improve and refine your real-world product.

“Until recently, Area X.O was limited to the physical world,” said Patrick Kenny, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for Invest Ottawa, Area X.O and Bayview Yards.

“This past winter, Area X.O launched a simulation discovery portal powered by Ansys. The simulation portal and program promotes simulation and its ability to reduce time, cost, effort and risk by getting breakthrough innovations to market faster. Innovators now have a new option to consider.”

Kenny made his remarks during a June 7 webinar. During that event, Area X.O engineers Barry Stoute and Hossain Samei explained how the system works – and even carried out a real-time demonstration.


Area X.O simulation portal



The brains behind the system come from Ansys, which has been in the simulation software business for more than 50 years. It is widely considered to be the most powerful software of its kind.

“Simulation is an artificial representation of a physical model,” explained simulation engineer Dr. Stoute. He went on to explain, at a high level, two different types of simulation: Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Digital Mission Engineering.

In a nutshell, FEA uses software (and really good computers) to see how different models behave under different conditions. The model can be anything: A robot, an antenna, a drone – you name it.

“Finite Element Analysis solves for mechanical structures, thermal analysis, electronics and optical (components),” explained Dr. Stoute. Want to know what temperature a component might heat to under load? Determine how a transmitter or antennae might behave in differing temperatures? Even “see” what an optical sensor might capture when mounted on a robot? Plug in the right parameters and powerful computing will give the answer.




This type of simulation is a way of designing a complex system, particularly where multiple assets interact with another in a simulated environment. In the example seen below, Dr. Stoute says a digital mission engineer could create a model where a drone capturing data interacts with multiple objects. These include satellite communications, a ground station, along with multiple vehicles. The drone’s mission is to capture data from the ground, but the engineer is interested in seeing the Big Picture – the ways in which all these different assets will interact.

The mission engineer can select and modify the parameters of every asset in that model. How powerful is the ground station and what range will it provide? What speed is the aircraft flying at, and at what altitude. What type of aircraft is it? What sensors are on the drone and what are their specifications? What is the battery life? What are the specifications of the drone’s motors? The ambient temperature and wind conditions?

The options are dizzying. But the software – along with a well-trained mission engineer – can create a virtual world where the data outcomes closely predict what would happen in a real-world mission.

“If an engineer creates a physical product and it doesn’t work as planned, they have to go back and remodel it,” explained Dr. Stoute. The simulation environment, by contrast, allows the engineer to tweak that product in a virtual environment without the expense of real-world modifications. Once the product is working well in simulation, those learnings can be applied to the actual physical product.

Plus, of course, weather parameters can easily be changed; something impossible in real-world testing (unless you’ve got lots of time on your hands).

“Should he wait until January to get a blizzard to test the product?” asked Dr. Stoute.

“No, it doesn’t make sense. The simulator can simulate blizzard conditions.”


Below: Dr. Stoute explains how Digital Mission Engineering works during the webinar


Digital Mission Engineering



Now that the basics were explained, the webinar moved on to demonstrate these concepts. Area X.O engineer Hossain Samei took over the controls, doing a real-time demo of the sim’s capabilities.

For this, Samei used not only the Ansys core system, but another powerful piece of software called Ansys AVxcelerate, which is used to test and validate sensors for self-driving cars. That means you can plug in virtual sensors, including all of their technical parameters, into the system. And not simply the sensors on the cars. In this simulation, which features a very high-resolution 3D map of the Area X.O complex, Hossain also had sensors that are on the Area X.O site embedded into this virtual world.

“This digital twin also includes the infrastructure embedded into our smart city zone,” explained Samei. “This includes multiple sensors, optical cameras, roadside units, thermal cameras and LiDAR cameras.” The model even includes functioning railroad crossing gates.

“We’re able to simulate the arms moving up and down,” he said.

And remember how the Ansys system can simulate weather? The mission engineer can also tailor lighting conditions – very useful for testing visual sensors.




Samei already had the digital twin of Area X.O defined. He then quickly put together an autonomous vehicle and camera sensor using AVxcelerate.

“Once we have our car defined, as well as the sensors on the vehicle, we’re able to move on to choosing a car simulator,” said Hossain.

In order to help the car drive on Area X.O’s terrain, Hossain turned to the Open-Source Webots robot simulator.

“With WeBots, you can define your vehicle, including its suspension, power train and other features to define the vehicle dynamics of the car,” said Samei.

And now? It was time for a drive.

Samei began to pilot the car around Area X.O – showing as well that he could change the setting from a clear and dry day to one with snow on the ground with just a few clicks. As the car drove down the road, you could see some of the Smart City sensors that are physically (and virtually) embedded in the Area X.O environment.

“You can see as we pull up, all of the sensors in the environment are visible. That kind of demonstrates what we’re able to do with this model,” he said.




Samei then moved on to programming an autonomous drone flight over one of the experimental farm fields that surround the Area X.O facility. For this portion of the demo, he utilized the Ansys STK toolkit – specifically designed for Digital Mission Engineering. You’ll recall Dr. Stoute spoke of this, and its ability to simulate entire systems – including ground stations, satellite communication, etc.

Samei defined the area of the field to be scanned, then “built” the quadcopter by selecting motors, battery, propellors – even the pitch of the blades.

“We end up with a very accurate model of a drone that reflects its actual performance,” he said.

He also programmed the altitude of the drone and the density of the scan – with passes over the field 400′ apart. With that and a few more clicks (all in real-time, which was pretty impressive to watch), he sent the drone off on its mission.

The virtual drone quickly scanned the desired area and returned to base with power to spare. Samei then plotted a more tightly focussed grid – lower altitude and more overlap, with grid passes 200′ apart – for greater data density. Then he send the quadcopter off again.

In this example, Samei was interested in whether the quadcopter could cover the scan with its existing power supply. He was also keen to learn if the ground station would be able to communicate with the drone throughout its mission. Both of these questions were answered in the affirmative without having to use a physical drone.

“We were able to verify the flight does not need more energy than the battery can provide,” he observed. “We can (also) see the minimum signal strength required – so indeed we are able to maintain consistent communication throughout the mission.”

That was impressive enough. But get this: The simulation software can even account for potential signal interference caused by buildings. And such flights – whether it’s a drone or a Cessna or a business jet – are not limited to Area X.O. Ansys STK has a database or pretty much anywhere on the planet.

“You can simulate your missions and flights over anywhere on earth,” said Samei.


Below: A screen capture during Samei Hossain’s real-time demo. Here, he’s configuring the technical parameters for a simulated quadcopter’s propulsion system

Area X.O Ansys simulator



The real-time demo was impressive. But it left one wondering: What kind of a computer do you need to make these kind of simulations actually work? Surely the computational power required exceeds what most of us carry around on our laptop.

And that’s true. But the good news is, the Area X.O simulator portal includes access to the precise kind of computer required.

“What we’re providing with our simulation services is access to our computers,” said Samei.

“We have the workstations necessary that have the computational power, the memory, that’s able to simulate these problems very fast. So it’s not necessary for the clients to have a supercomputer in order to run the simulations. We can take that 10-day simulation time down to 10 hours.”




If it wasn’t clear by now (and it surely was), the webinar wrapped with a reminder of why simulation is such a powerful and cost-effective tool for developers.

“We can do more different physics-based simulations such that you don’t have to build…expensive prototypes,” said Dr. Stoute. “People can actually imagine the wildest designs without any limitations. Having your wildest dreams imaginable.”

Engineer Hossain Samei also weighed in.

“One thing I really do believe in is: Knowledge is power,” he said.

“What simulation…lets us know (is) what’s going to happen and not suffer the consequences from actually having to make a product…and then find out: ‘Oops, I have a problem’. Simulation allows you to circumvent that and identify these issues before, where it’s easier to actually solve them.”




You can! Though the Area X.O simulation portal is ultimately a paid service, those interested in learning more can sign up for further free demos to get a better sense of what this resource is capable of delivering.

Sign up for free on this page.

If you thought you missed a cool demo, you did. But no worries, you can watch a replay of the entire webinar below:



The Ansys platform is acknowledged as the best simulation platform going. And with the expertise of Area X.O engineers Dr. Barry Stoute and Samei Hossain, we’re confident a solution can be tailored for pretty much any product operating in any environment.

“It’s a normal part of R&D to go through various iterations of products following real-world testing,” says InDro Robotics CEO Philip Reece. “And while products ultimately need to be tested in the real world prior to deployment, high-level simulation can save time, money – and mistakes.

“Even though our R&D hub is situated right at Area X.O, we plan on tapping into this powerful tool to analyze some of our products currently on the drawing board.”

If you’re interested in learning more about this new tool, drop Area X.O a line here


High-tech jobs aplenty in Ottawa – including with InDro Robotics

High-tech jobs aplenty in Ottawa – including with InDro Robotics

Ask someone what they know about Ottawa, and odds are they’ll say it’s home to the Federal Government, multiple world-class museums and the ByWard Market – a destination for locals and visitors alike.

Increasingly, however, the nation’s capital is also becoming known as a high-tech hub. With facilities like the cutting-edge Area X.O – where robotic vehicles and drones are tested daily – Ottawa is becoming something of a technology magnet.

There’s data to back that up. Silicon Valley’s Gigamon recently announced plans to locate a new R&D facility in Ottawa, and the tech sector currently accounts for 11.3 per cent of all jobs in the city.

“When reviewing potential expansion opportunities in North America, we considered a number of attractive options,” Shane Buckley, president and CEO at Gigamon told Invest Ontario. “Ottawa’s diverse workforce and bustling tech community made it the clear choice.”

Taken together, it adds up to jobs.

Below: InDro Robotics engineer Ahmad Tamimi solving problems at Area X.O

Canada Robotics

Job alert


A new blog post from Invest Ottawa highlights ten Ottawa high-tech companies that have current current job openings – with many of them advertising multiple openings.

Just one example? RideShark – a mobile app that offers multiple and seamless transportation options – has three positions open: Front-End Developer, Mobile App Developer and Business Development Sales Manager

Here’s more about what RideShark does:

Wait – there’s more!


In the Invest Ottawa blog about those jobs, there was also an opening highlighted at InDro Robotics. Here’s a screen grab from the blog, which offers some of the details.

High Tech Jobs

InDro’s Take


Well, let’s be honest. We can’t help but be a little biased here.

InDro Robotics is a great place to work. We value team-playing, problem-solving people. Our engineers routinely work together on projects, and also alone – but always within a collaborative atmosphere. We have a diverse group of employees and our retention level is outstanding. Plus, working for InDro is fun: You might be flying a drone one day, or working on a ground robot the next. Trust us on this: No one gets bored.

We have multiple positions open at the moment, including some at our Area X.O location – and others in beautiful British Columbia.

Interested? You can check out the open positions on this page.

InDro Robotics releases “NERDs” White Paper

InDro Robotics releases “NERDs” White Paper

By Scott Simmie, InDro Robotics

We’re pleased to release a White Paper detailing an ambitious and successful project we’ve recently completed.

That project, perhaps appropriately enough, goes by the acronym NERDS – which stands for Network Enhanced Realtime Drone project. It began as a technology challenge issued by the Ontario Centre of Innovation, whose mandate is to “develop and deliver programs that accelerate the development, commercialization, and adoption of advanced technologies to drive job creation.” The project included technical support from Ericsson and access to the ENCQOR network, a test-bed 5G network with a corridor through Quebec and Ontario.

The goal of this challenge? To greatly enhance capability of Enterprise drones and enhance the safety of Beyond Visual Line of Sight flights. The challenge involved designing, building and testing a module that would allow an Enterprise drone to be flown over the 5G network while transmitting even highly dense data in realtime. Some of the more specific goals included:

  • Drone Command & Control (C2) over 5G
  • Transmission of telemetry back to the control station: altitude, speed, compass heading, high-precision GPS, battery level, ambient temperature, barometric pressure, etc.
  • Transmit ultra low-latency, uncompressed 4K video stream via 5G
  • Use a Software Defined Radio to transmit to nearby traditional aircraft that a drone operation in the area is underway

There were other bits and pieces as well, but that sums up the core of the project.

Under the lead of engineer Ahmad Tamimi, InDro got to work. There was a ton of testing, simulations – even mapping out the strength of 5G signals at various altitudes – before we pulled the hardware and software together into a module compatible with any Enterprise drone using a Pixhawk flight controller.

Here’s generation one of that module, which we call InDro Capsule. It’s that black, hexagonal device on top of the drone.


Network Enhanced Realtime Drone Technology

Plug & Play


We are currently working on a commercial version of InDro Capsule. It won’t be long before we turn this into a product that will enable other Enterprise drones to be flown over 4G and 5G networks. That product will include the Software Defined Radio for alerting private aircraft to drone operations.

There’s actually much more to the system, which integrates into our new software platform, InDro Pilot. One of the more unique features of the InDro Pilot ecosystem is that it will allow Enterprise drone operators to quickly integrate other sensors, simply using a drag and drop interface. You simply select the appropriate module for the desired sensor.

We’re not going to jump into details here, but if you’re like more info about this system you’ll find it here. We will, however, give you a glimpse of how this works by showing you the Winch module:

Network Enhanced Realtime Drone Technology



Now that you’ve got some background, we’ll get to the White Paper.

Like all White Papers, this one methodically details the scope of the project, the steps that were taken to achieve those goals, as well as the results. If you’re into the fine details of how a challenge like this gets accomplished, you’ll find plenty to interest you. It’s also a testament to the hard work of InDro’s engineering team – and Ahmad Tamimi in particular. Ahmad spent the early months of the COVID outbreak working on this project solo (along with virtual meetings with Ericsson).

The image below gives you a sense of the granular detail contained in the document.

You can download a .pdf of the White Paper here.

Network Enhanced Realtime Drone Technology

InDro’s Take


At InDro, we love a challenge. And the NERDs project presented us, along with partners Ericsson, a significant one.

We believe the resulting InDro Pilot system (which includes the InDro Capsule module) will enable safer BVLOS flight. The 4K streaming and ultra low-latency enhance situational awareness for the pilot, and the Software Defined Radio will alert neaby aircraft to drone operations in the area. In addition, even dense data can be uploaded directly to the cloud during missions. Just as the InDro Commander offers a plug-and-play solution for customizing ground robots, InDro Pilot will do the same for Enterprise drones on the Pixhawk platform.

We are currently making InDro Capsule lighter and more compact, and look forward to commercializing the entire package in the near future.

Some innovative Canadian tech companies to watch

Some innovative Canadian tech companies to watch

At InDro Robotics, we live and breathe innovation.

Not only do we like creating new products and solutions, we enjoy celebrating when other companies – particularly Canadian companies – build cool things.

InDro Robotics recently took part in a Trade Mission sponsored by NRC-IRAP – the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program. The program involved some 20 companies heading to Portugal for meetings with leading Portuguese innovation companies and agencies, as well as attending the Global Innovation Summit focussed on a sustainable future.

It was a busy, whirlwind week. But one of the highlights was meeting some of the other Canadian companies in the innovation space and learning more about that they do. So we thought we’d take a moment and highlight a few of them.


Oneka Technologies


See that buoy floating below? It’s pretty special.

Oneka Technologies
The buoy is built by Quebec’s Oneka Technologies. And it can turn sea water into drinking water, using wave power.

The Oneka system consists of buoys tethered just offshore from an area in need of fresh drinking water. The movement of the waves provides the energy to force the seawater through reverse osmosis filters. The result? Fresh water in places that need it most.

As the system performs its extraction, it also produces a brine containing roughly 30 per cent more salinity than the surrounding seawater. That brine is returned to the ocean, but quickly diluted.

Each buoy requires about 10 square metres of space on the ocean, so multiple buoys can be placed within close proximity. Use-case scenarios include communities with limited access to drinking water, natural disasters where the drinking water has been disrupted – and even seaside resorts in need of desalination.

$5.5M funding round

Last year, Oneka announced it had completed a $5.5M funding round led by Canadian investor Innovacorp and American investor Baruch Future Ventures.

“The world is running out of clean water and Oneka has a solution. It works, it’s affordable, it’s better for the environment, and it can be scaled from local disaster relief and regional demand all the way to meeting utility needs,” said Jonathan Saari, investment manager at Innovacorp in an Oneka news release. “It’s exciting to watch the team build and test their world-changing technology…”

The release says the company is working its first two commercial deploments in the US and Chile. Oneka’s solution produces zero CO2 emissions, and a single device can produce up to 10,000 litres of fresh water per week, enough for 450 people.

Earlier this year, Oneka won the US Department of Energy’s Waves to Water challenge, a competition designed to accelerate the development of small, modular, wave-energy-powered desalination systems. The three-year-long challenge netted the company $500,000 US.

Open Ocean Robotics

And here’s another Canadian company doing innovative things on the water.

Open Ocean Robotics is a Victoria-based company that really grabbed our attention during the Trade Mission trip.

Its solar-powered vehicle (with a patented self-righting system), can travel the ocean for months at a time, sending back critical data in real-time. The model seen here is called the Data Xplorer, and the company also has a model that utilizes rigid sails.

Oneka Technologies

Long-term missions, zero emissions


The Open Ocean robotics USV is suitable for long-range missions lasting months, with the vehicle capabale of either autonomous or remotely operated missions (pending how remote those missions are). Here’s what Open Ocean says about the device:

“Powered by the sun, it can travel on the ocean for months at a time collecting ocean and environmental data using its suite of sensors.  It sends this information back in real-time through secure communication systems and clients can control the USV from anywhere in the world using our user portal. Capable of travelling in both coastal and open-ocean waters, and with a customizable platform for multiple sensor integration, it offers the ability to understand our oceans in a whole new way.  Data Xplorer is designed to endure all sea states and is self righting.”

Here’s a look at Data Xplorer in action:

This appears to be a thoughtfully engineered system that can be teleoperated where there’s a cellular signal. In more remote areas, missions can be uploaded via satellite. We’re particularly impressed by the unique self-righting system. It relies on buoyancy in that circular structure at the stern, rather than adding weight to the keel (which would reduce efficiency).

And yes, these USVs can capture a *lot* of useful data: This graphic comes from the Open Ocean Robotics website.

Oneka Technologies
The company has carried out multiple successful missions to date; you can find case studies here. In December of 2021, Open Ocean Robotics wrapped a $4M seed funding round.

Perhaps even more impressive? CEO Julie Angus, in addition to holding multiple degrees (including a Masters of Science in molecular biology), was the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean, from mainland to mainland.


ACEL Power


The Vancouver-based firm focuses on what’s likely to be a booming market in the years to come: Electric outboard motors. The company says its motors deliver 30 per cent more torque than a comparable horsepower internal combustion engine, plus offer a lifespan five times that of a conventional outboard.

All that, with zero emissions.

The company is about to commence manufacturing, and is now taking pre-orders on 50, 60, 75, 100 and 150-horsepower motors. Motors come with the complete ACEL Power system, including:

  • Engine
  • Battery
  • Inverter
  • Throttle
  • Onboard Computer Screen
  • Keyless start Fob

Here’s a look at a prototype engine in action:

And while ACEL Power’s motors are not inexpensive, the company says they will outperform and outlast conventional motors. ACEL also has its eye on potentially producing a Uncrewed Surface Vehicle using its outboards down the road.

You can find more info – and even pre-order a motor – right here.


And finally…


A brief look at one more company from the trip (though we wish we had room to highlight them all).

Ashored is not in the robotics space, but it has a very intriguing product that will help prevent sea mammal entanglements and hopefully make life easier for people in the fishery industry who use traps for lobsters, crabs etc.

Normally, those traps are dropped to the bottom and attached by lines to small buoys on the surface. Those lines can often entangle whales and other sea creatures. In fact, if whales are spotted in areas where there are active traps, fishers can be instructed to remove traps until the whales move out of the area.

The Ashored system offers a clever solution. Its MOBI (Modular Ocean Based Instrument) keeps the line on the ocean floor until the fisher returns to collect the gear. The rope and small buoy are contained in a cage that is attached to the other traps. Using an acoustic signal (or timer), a magnetic lock is released and the buoy floats to the surface.

You can check out the system in this excellent video:

InDro’s Take


The companies on that recent trip, without exception, had impressive innovations and/or solutions. A lot of them were in the maritime space, where we’re seeing an increased use in robotics both on and beneath the surface.

There’s also a growing emphasis on sustainability, in conjunction with net-zero carbon emissions. There can be no doubt there are good use-cases for wave-powered desalination systems, solar-powered Uncrewed Surface Vehicles, electric outboard motors – and more. We look forward to seeing more from these Canadian companies, as well as the others who were on the trip.

In closing, a quick shoutout to Andrew Bauder, Léonie Hyppolite and Scott McLean from NRC-IRAP for organizing and excellent and productive Trade Mission. Thank you.