InDro builds, delivers custom robot to global client

InDro builds, delivers custom robot to global client

By Scott Simmie


We’ve built a new robot we’d like to tell you about.

It’s for a highly specialised use-case scenario for a global client. (And when we say global client, it’s a household name.)

This isn’t the first project where we’ve been tapped by a heavy-hitting company to design and build custom robots. We have ongoing contracts with others, where unfortunately NDAs prohibit us from disclosing pretty much anything. (We can tell you that one of the ground robots we’re building for one of those clients is pretty big.)

In this case, the client has agreed to let us tell you a fair bit about the product, providing we don’t reveal their name. We think this is a really intriguing robot, so we’re going to share some details – including images of the final product.

Here it is. And, by the way, it’s as tall as the average person. The sensor poking out on the right near the top of the cylindrical portion is positioned at eye-level.

Custom Robot



With that stretching, stovepipe-like neck, it might look like a pizza oven on wheels. But it’s not. It’s designed that way so that sensors can be roughly at the head height of human beings. The box at the bottom could be thought of as a computer on steroids.

That’s because the client wanted this robot for a very specific purpose: To be able to navigate complex crowds of people.

“The client wants to use Vision SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) to essentially detect humans and pathways through chaotic environments,” says Arron Griffiths, InDro’s Engineering Manager. Arron works out of our Area X.O location, where the robot was fabricated.

“Think malls, shopping centres, and stuff like that where humans are mingling to navigate around. And there’s no really defined path, the robot must organically move around people. Yes, you’d have an overall predetermined path with a desired destination, but once the chaos of humans comes in the robot would safely meander its way through crowds.”




That’s not a simple task. The client is going to supply its own autonomy software, but InDro had to work closely with them on the robot’s design and capabilities.

We mentioned earlier that this robot is SLAM-capable. That means it can map its surroundings in real time and make its own decisions – while it’s moving – about where in the ever-changing environment it makes sense to go to next. Two ZED depth cameras provide a detailed look at those surroundings (one close to the ground, the other at human eye level). So it’s constantly scanning, mapping, and making decisions about where to move next in real-time.

This is a data-dense task that requires a *lot* of onboard computing power.

“It’s basically a really powerful desktop computer on wheels,” says InDro Account Executive Luke Corbeth. “It’s outfitted with serious computational power, including the same graphic cards that people use to mine bitcoin.”

And that posed another challenge for our engineering team. The client wanted the robot to be able to operate for several hours at a time. But that advanced computing capability really puts a drain on power. 

“Once you stick these high-end computers into a battery powered robotic system, your run time drops like a stone,” explains Griffiths. “It’s a bit of a beast on power. That’s why we had to put a second battery into the unit. This is an excercise in finding a balance point, and producing a robot that will do a high-end deployment with all of this high end technology.”

Custom Robot Canada



This wasn’t the first custom-robot that client has requested. The international company has a longer-term research project focussed on enabling a robot to navigate when surrounded by unpredictable human beings. It has developed, and will continue to tweak, its own autonomy software to carry out this task in conjunction with this robot.

InDro worked closely with the client on the design – both the technical requirements in terms of processors, sensors, graphic cards, run time – as well as the physical appearance. Because the client had some very tight timelines, InDro designed and built this robot in a very short period of time: Seven weeks from outset until the product was shipped.

“That’s extremely fast,” says Griffiths. “That’s the fastest custom robot I’ve seen in my working profession. You’ve got to think design cycles, manufacturing, outsourcing, testing. From this being nothing, to being shipped out in less than two months is incredible.”




But there’s a difference between carrying out an expedited task – and doing a rush job. The focus always had to remain on ensuring that the capabilities, design, build and testing of this machine would meet or exceed the client’s rigorous standards. And that meant even the tiniest details counted.

For example, we’d discovered with a previous robot using the same locomotion platform that there could be an issue on rough surfaces. Specifically, if you were turning a tight corner or accelerating while turning, the wheels could shudder and jump. This was especially an issue on asphalt and concrete.

InDro’s engineering team knew that with this robot any such shudders would be amplified due to the height of the machine; a minor shudder at the base would translate into significant wobbling at the robot’s top. That wasn’t something we wanted happening.

And so we created a solution. We covered the individual wheels with a 3D-printed wrap. This provides a barrier between the sticky rubber and ground, allowing the robot to slightly slide during such manoeuvres and avoiding those troubling vibrations.


Below: Detail of the wheels, with their new coating

Custom Robot



When we pack up and ship a custom build, the client always gets in touch after they’ve received the product. That’s the moment of truth – and the feedback we eagerly await.

Not long after the robot arrived, an email from the client landed. It included the following:

“The robot is fantastic,” they wrote. “The craftsmanship is superb; the power on the base is enabling; the intricate way in which the computer fits in the base housing is incredible; the compute box + mast feels ‘just right’ (there’s no template for social robot design, but I feel like we got very close).

“All these things make me really confident that, with the right algorithms (my responsibility) we can safely and efficiently navigate through crowds. It’s a really special robot that I can’t wait to put in the field.  Your team deserves a raise!”

This robot, though it can’t cook pizzas, is one of the most powerful Uncrewed Ground Vehicles InDro has built, at least in terms of raw onboard computational power. Engineering lead Griffiths believes its capabilities could make a variation of this machine suitable for other clients, as well.

“I think it’s a very good platform for clients who want very high computing power in a small form factor  that actually has some range, some longevity to it,” he says.

Below: Even when they’re under the gun, our engineering team takes it all in stride

Robotics Engineers



We’re often working on projects like this. In fact, this isn’t the first major global client to tap InDro for custom builds. As our tagline states: “Invent. Enhance. Deploy.” That’s what we do.

“This was an expedited design, build and test of a completely new and computationally powerful robot,” says InDro Robotics CEO Philip Reece. “We know that InDro’s reputation rides on every product we ship and every service we provide. So we’re delighted to hear the client is as pleased with this robot as we are – and look forward to building more for them.”

Interested in what a powerhouse machine like this might do for you? Feel free to explore the possibilities by setting up a conversation with Account Executive Luke Corbeth.


InDro attends cutting-edge PROMAT conference in Chicago

InDro attends cutting-edge PROMAT conference in Chicago

By Scott Simmie


When you work in the robotics and R&D field, conferences are part of the deal. Within the past year, we’ve attended many of the big ones, including AUVSI in Florida, the Aerial Evolution Association of Canada in Calgary, and the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CANSEC) in Ottawa (where we were also an exhibitor). We also took a jaunt down to T-Mobile in Washington State, where we were invited to demonstrate our remote teleoperations over 5G with our Sentinel inspection robot. There were plenty of others, too, but these were the ones we happened to write about.

Conferences like these allow InDro to display our own technology, speak with other companies about their own cutting-edge products, learn about the latest on the regulatory front – and much more. We have developed strong partnerships that began with simple trade floor discussions, and also learned more about the kinds of solutions sought by clients.

And now, we’re at it again – this time in Chicago. InDro sent two senior employees to PROMAT 2023, a massive event with more than 50,000 attendees.

“This conference is all things automation, digital transformation, and robotics for supply chain and warehousing,” says Stacey Connors, Head of Strategic Innovation.

And it’s big. More than 1,000 of the world’s leading manufacturing and supply chain solution providers are displaying their solutions. (If you really want to geek out, check out the floor plan here.)

Promat Chicago


InDro – in conjunction with its work in aerial and ground robotics – has also been developing automated solutions to warehousing and logistics. The overall supply chain market is huge, with PROMAT estimating the 50,000 attendees have some $65 billion in global purchasing power. So it was a natural fit for InDro Vice President Peter King and Stacey Connors to attend.

The solutions on offer are almost endless – everything from autonomous forklifts to pick-and-place robots, inventory management, even systems for moving along pressed clothes at a dry cleaner. Everywhere you turn, there are software and hardware supply chain solutions, including devices that can store, retrieve, stack, pack, wrap, load, unload, track, move – and much more.

For Connors, as Head of Strategic Innovations, seeing all of these solutions under one roof – and meeting with innovators and potential clients – was a tremendous opportunity.

I would say my personal primary objective was to see how our developing technologies compliment the existing offerings and the remaining gaps in solving supply chain and warehousing pain points,” she says.

“It’s about that whole ecosystem of digital transformation. If we’re coming with one piece of the solution, how does that fit into a roadmap – what are the buyers thinking about when they’re making these kinds of decisions?”

And there are indeed buyers at this show. PROMAT surveyed attendees, and says that more than one-third of the 50,000 people at the show are planning to spend more than $1M in the coming 18 months. According to PROMAT, “a wide variety of companies, including 75% of the top 100 retailers, 65% of the top 100 consumer goods companies and many Fortune 1000s, send teams of buyers to ProMat to find solutions to their specific manufacturing and supply chain challenges.”

Plus, of course, there are keynotes and something like 150 learning seminars. That’s a lot to take in, and this video overview from PROMAT gives you a glimpse of the scale:



Automating the supply chain isn’t just about efficiency. Worker protection also plays a role with many solutions. Why have a human being repeatedly lift heavy loads if a machine can do it? Why manually count warehouse stock if it can be accomplished faster and more accurately by a robotic system? Those are just a couple of examples among literally hundreds of new and ever-evolving use-cases.

Seeing this myriad of solutions, along with new technological innovations, provides valuable insight and context into the global market.

“At a high level, the supply chain sector is a huge industry that’s being impacted by robotics everyday – it’s one of the biggest industries that’s moving toward robotics applications,” says InDro Vice President Peter King. “So one of the key reasons for attending is for reconnaissance and understanding our place in that market.”

And it’s not just about seeing the latest and greatest. It’s not uncommon, in any sector, for startups and even established companies to sometimes overstate their capabilities. Being on the floor allows InDro to determine whether some of these solutions are indeed ready for prime time.

“This gives us a chance to really see what’s in the industry today,” says King, “including what’s real and what’s not real.”

Below: Stacey Connors tries out a system capable of quickly generating a digital twin of its surroundings


Promat Chicago



With more than 1,000 exhibits – some massive – it was no small task to have a look at everything on the floor. Our team covered as much ground as possible, and came back with some take-aways.”From a buyer’s perspective, the future is now. High tech solutions have become normalized,” says Vice President King. “But it’s likely a very challenging landscape for buyers to understand where to start with implementation. While there are many, many – many – solutions available, there is no one size fits all.” That means there’s also demand for services from companies like InDro – which not only develop products, but are capable of taking a step back and offering integrated solutions.

“Integrators are of highest value as buyers try to map out introduction of multiple solutions,” says Stacey Connors. “We saw high collaboration amongst all the different technology providers, and the tech is available and more ready for deployment than ever before. Not only that, but there’s a visible increase in the number of options available for each type of technology.

“Integrators like InDro will continue to be rising in demand as all of these technologies become more viable and businesses require customization, support in deployment and management, investment decisions, etc.”

And the high points of the show? Well, there were many. Among them? The Boston Dynamics Stretch – an autonomous robot capable of unloading boxes from trucks – and even positioning a conveyor to take the load. One battery charge powers Stretch for an entire shift:



Another show-stopper was Digit, from Agility Robotics. The bipedal robot is capable of autonomously mapping its environment and picking up and moving objects. This is the kind of repetitive task that is ideal for robotic solutions. Plus, Digit – complete with blinking ‘eyes’ – has been designed with the human-robot interface in mind. People seem to like the way it looks, and would feel comfortable sharing a workspace with this machine.

Of course, robots like this aren’t built overnight. Agility engineers put many years into the development of Digit. Take a look at the product’s evolution, and you’ll get a glimpse of its development process:




InDro Robotics has a long history of identifying trends early in order to be ahead of the curve. It began R&D work and service provision in the Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles sphere long before drones became the ubiquitous devices they are today. The company then identified a growing demand for Uncrewed Ground Vehicles, rapidly developing such innovations as Commander, a bolt-on box that makes customization and integration of robotic platforms a snap – allowing the end user to remotely teleoperate such devices from even thousands of kilometres away.

“Supply chain and inventory management is a huge market, well-suited to InDro’s expertise with both product development and systems integration,” says CEO Philip Reece. “We have an innovative new product currently going through testing for this space and look forward to sharing details soon.

“On a more strategic note, expanding into this sector with new aerial and ground robotics solutions – along with our expertise as an integrator – is a big part of InDro’s plans as the company continues to scale. Stay tuned.”

We look forward to sharing more before long.

InDro obtains FAA BVLOS waiver for solar farm inspections

InDro obtains FAA BVLOS waiver for solar farm inspections

By Scott Simmie


InDro Robotics has obtained what we believe to be a Canadian first: A waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct Beyond Visual Line of Sight flights.

The waiver will allow InDro to expand its successful program of remotely piloted infrastructure inspections where we ship a drone to the location – and instruct a person there to be a Visual Observer during the flight.

Specifically, the FAA waiver permits InDro to remotely operate drone inspections of fenced solar farms in Class G airspace, 10 miles (16 km) from airports. Operations can reach a maximum altitude of 400′ AGL.

The waiver opens the skies for InDro to tap into a large market, remotely inspecting some of the 2,500+ solar farms in the United States.

Below: A solar farm in Hawaii. Photo courtesty Reegan Moen, US Dept of Energy.

Solar Farm Inspection

Inspection without the hassle


Solar farms require regular inspection. Traditionally, these have been done by employees walking the grounds with a handheld thermal sensor, plus their own visual inspection. But this task is time-consuming, and can last days at a large facility.

As a result, many solar farms have switched – or are in the process of switching – to aerial inspection using drones. Combining visual and thermal inspection from above, issues with broken, malfunctioning and even dirty panels can be quickly identified. Many solar farms can be inspected in less than an hour and even large installations usually take less than a day.

But doing drone inspections with employees comes with a cost. The pilot must meet FAA Part 107 or Transport Canada standards. That involves training, time and money before even purchasing a drone. Plus, with next-generation drones coming out with better sensors, longer flight times and newer features, it doesn’t take long before that drone will require replacing.

The InDro Robotics solution is simple and cost-effective. We ship the client a current drone, suited to the task. We work with someone on-site, instructing them how to turn on the drone and act as a Visual Observer. One of our pilots then flies the mission remotely, maintaining continuous communication via phone with the visual observer.

With a solid 5G connection, data is uploaded directly to the cloud during the mission and processing begins. We can have a report identifying anomalies in the hands of most clients shortly after the mission. Once the flight is complete, the drone is packed up and shipped back to InDro.

We’ve done this at multiple facilities in Canada already, operating from hundreds of kilometres away. Receiving the FAA approval means we’ll be able to deploy the same solution in the United States.

And what does that look like? Well, like this – whether you’re 100 kilometres away or 5,000:

Rigorous criteria


As with Transport Canada’s Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC), obtaining an FAA waiver requires that an applicant satisfy the regulator on multiple fronts.

The FAA application, for those interested, asks a high number of detailed questions  requiring equally detailed answers. Here’s the first from the InDro application:

§ 107.31 Visual Line of Sight Aircraft Operation Question: Describe how the Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC) will be able to continuously know and determine the position, altitude, attitude, and movement of their small unmanned aircraft (sUA) or Drone and ensure the sUA or Drone remains in the area of intended operation without exceeding the performance capabilities of the command and control link. 

“When the RPIC or person operating the small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) or Drone cannot see the sUA or Drone, how will they know, at all times, the current real-time: Geographic location Altitude above the ground Attitude (orientation, deck angle, pitch, bank), the direction of flight of the sUA or Drone…”

And that’s just one from a series of Q&As that stretched over seven dense pages of single-space text.

At the end of the day, however, it isn’t about individual answers. It’s more about the big picture of them taken collectively. Such permissions ultimately come down to this: The regulator must feel the mission poses minimal risk to crewed aircraft and people and property on the ground. They must also feel confident the operator has the expertise to carry out the mission as planned.

InDro satisfied this on both fronts, receiving a waiver valid until December 31, 2026.

We contacted the FAA Press Office to inquire whether any other Canadian company has ever received a waiver. They couldn’t answer that, stating that “Part 107 does not address company ownership, but restricts all 107 operations to ‘…within/in the United States.'”



A busy year of flying


We were in the air for clients – and for R&D – a lot in 2022. In fact, we recently tallied up our flights for an internal Town Hall meeting, and decided to share.

The high points?

  • A total of 336 flights carried out, including missions in Canada, the US, South America and Saudi Arabia
  • 40,802 aerial photos captured
  • 487 kilometres of flight using multirotor drones

“All of our field operations were successfully completed,” Flight Operations Lead and GIS specialist Eric Saczuk told staff during the Town Hall. “And that speaks a lot to the quality of the team – to all of the work that goes on in the background has allowed us to have that success rate.” 

During the townhall, it was revealed that the only incident encountered in 2022 operations was a landing gear issue on a single flight.

“If that’s all that happened with more than 400 active flights from all over the world,” he continued, “We’re doing something right. We have a great team, and great products.”

Below: A graphic from the internal InDro Town Hall showing highlights of the company’s drone operations:


InDro’s take


InDro began as an R&D company doing work exclusively in the drone space. And while we’ve expanded to ground robotics, pushing the envelope in the RPAS arena is still a very large chunk of what we do. Our new InDro Pilot software and hardware solution, for example, turns any Pixhawk-based Enterprise drone into a tele-operated system capable of dense and highly secure real-time uploads during missions.

The company has flown many Visual Line of Sight missions in the US already; the new FAA waiver will now allow InDro to deploy its teleoperated system.

“We’re pleased the FAA has seen fit to grant us this BVLOS waiver,” says InDro CEO Philip Reece. “Permitting these kinds of teleoperated missions will save clients both time and money, while ensuring they still receive best-in-class piloting and data acquisition/interpretation. We have deep expertise in solar farm inspections – and look forward to carrying out missions with this waiver.”

Interested in learning more? Feel free to contact Account Executive Luke Corbeth.

InDro hires Head of Strategic Innovations

InDro hires Head of Strategic Innovations

By Scott Simmie


As a Research and Development company, InDro Robotics is – by necessity – engineering-heavy. Our staff at Area X.O in Ottawa and in British Columbia are constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to inventing and deploying new solutions in hardware, software and service provision.

As a result, much of the focus of our hiring in the past couple of years has been expanding our engineering staff.

But with a growing number of InDro products and clients, it’s also important to identify and develop key partnerships. And on that front, we’re pleased to announce a non-engineer hire. Stacey Connors joins the InDro team as Head of Strategic Innovations.

The role is about the big picture – and a long-term vision of planning and executing InDro’s growth trajectory.

“My role is to find where we want to go, find the vertical that InDro should lean into, then determine what infrastructure we need based on our initial customer understanding and discoveries.”

It’s a big job. And Stacey comes with the requisite experience.

Stacey Connors


Connors comes to InDro after a 12-year, high-level run at FedEx, the global leader in express transportation. Beginning as an account executive, she went on to positions in Strategic Development, became a Worldwide Account Manager, and was a District Manager when she made the leap to InDro.

Much of her work with FedEx involved B2B development. She worked with a variety of different verticals, including aerospace, retail, healthcare and manufacturing. She comes with a special knack for putting pieces together.

“What I enjoyed about it was twofold,” she says: “Finding the intersection between the solution that my organization had available and the need or problem that the customer’s trying to solve.”

Leap of faith


Connors says she truly enjoyed her work at FedEx. But when the opportunity at InDro came along, she felt ready for a new challenge that would push her beyond her comfort zone.

“I was craving something wildly different,” she says. “I hadn’t remotely thought about robotics and laughed when Peter (Peter King, Head of Robotic Solutions) first mentioned it. But it was a personal opportunity to get uncomfortable, be challenged, and work on the edge – where you have to be sharp.” 

Connors has quickly jumped in, traveling to Area X.O on her first week to meet a visiting robotics company from Europe and a delegation from NAV CANADA. While there, she quickly observed one of InDro’s key strengths.

“In my first few days it was very obvious that there’s a cohesiveness among all individuals in the organization. Everyone fully understands the business objectives we’re trying to achieve and the value that each of them bring,” she says. “When I walk into an organization and see that collective spirit, that’s the horse I’m going to bet on.”





Drawing on her FedEx experience, Connors says she’s excited to start identifying companies that might benefit from InDro’s many robotic solutions – including a new inventory drone system that autonomously scans warehouse stock. But while sales may well result from her work, her role is really about the bigger strategic picture as InDro continues to grow.

“Yes, I’ll be leveraging our R&D capabilities to accelerate specific industries in their use of these technologies,” she says. “But I really see InDro as an integrator – and that’s almost how I would describe my role. We have research and development, the newest and latest and greatest. I’ll be going out and seeing who has other pieces we don’t have and bringing them all together. And that really gets me excited.”

Canada Robotics

Other expertise


Connors, in addition to her accomplishments at FedEx, has other expertise that will serve her well in this role. She has a Bachelor of Health Science from Wilfrid Laurier University,  along with a post-graduate degree from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. She’s also a certified Talent Management Practitioner, has gone through the Ivey Sales Leadership Program, has studied Emotional Intelligence at McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business, and is also a Certified Multipliers Leader – with the latter meaning she has expertise to help bring out the greatness in others.

But she’d rather talk about InDro – and what she’s learned since coming onboard – than about herself.

“At FedEx our operators were the core and value of the company. And it is obvious that the engineers are the core value of this company,” she says. “Research and development is that incessant hunger to continue to provide new options, new solutions, new technologies. And you can feel that spirit here.”

Autonomous Cars

InDro’s take


The hiring of Stacey Connors as Head of Strategic Innovations is significant for a couple of reasons. The first, obviously, is that she brings proven skills, expertise, and an outstanding reputation.

But the second is really about the timing.

InDro Robotics has been growing steadily. In the last two years our team has developed and deployed multiple new products and services, and we are working with several global technology companies. Our engineering team has continued to grow.

“We are at a significant juncture in the company’s trajectory,” says CEO Philip Reece. “While InDro will always be an engineering-first firm, we are now at the stage of securing strategic partnerships to ensure the next phase of growth. Stacey is the right person, in the right position, at the right time.”

InDro Backpack makes smart dog robots smarter

InDro Backpack makes smart dog robots smarter

By Scott Simmie


Want to make a smart dog smarter?

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

InDro has developed a solution for that.

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

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


InDro Backpack

What’s in the box


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

And what does that mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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


Who’s this for?


Who might benefit from an InDro Backpack-enabled quadruped?

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

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

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



Roll over


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

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

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

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


Making a good robot great


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

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

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

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

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

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

InDro’s take


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

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

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

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

Putting Sentinel through its paces at EPRI

Putting Sentinel through its paces at EPRI

By Scott Simmie


There’s testing. And then there’s “real-world” testing.

For example, InDro Robotics builds and tests drones and ground robots. We do this constantly, pushing for continuous improvements (and even breakthroughs) with our products. In BC, we’re frequently flying missions to test cellular connectivity or our new proprietary drone software, InDro Pilot.

At Area X.O in Ottawa, we routinely deploy our ground robots on missions to test tele-operations, new sensors, and even autonomous functions. (We have a real advantage here, because Area X.O is made for robots. There are several roads – and even traffic lights – designated for testing and use by autonomous vehicles.)

And while such research always provides us with useful data, it’s just not the same as putting technology to the test in a real-world environment.

That’s why we took Sentinel – our custom-built robot for monitoring and inspection at remote facilities – to Massachusetts.


Autonomous Robots

The EPRI challenge


EPRI stands for the Electric Power Research Institute. It’s a non-profit energy research, development and deployment organisation. EPRI is constantly doing research – collaborating with more than 450 private companies across 45 countries globally. The purpose, according to its website, is to “ensure the public has clean, safe, reliable, affordable, and equitable access to electricity across the globe.” EPRI shares its research with members, which represent virtually all facets of the power generation and delivery sector.

EPRI has multiple research facilities, including one in Lenox, Massachusetts. This particular location features an electrical substation that can be energised, de-energised – and can even simulate rain for testing purposes.

Earlier this year, InDro Robotics was one of a small number of companies to participate in research to analyse the effectiveness of remotely-operated and autonomous ground robots in a variety of conditions. The purpose was to determine the ability of such devices to carry out inspection and monitoring – including whether these robots could detect problems such as arcing.

InDro Robotics Sentinel

The InDro Team


We dispatched InDro Account Executive Luke Corbeth and Robotics Engineer Austin Greisman (along with Sentinel, of course) to the EPRI facility in Lenox, Massachusetts.

“EPRI’s goal for this program was to evaluate technologies that are capable of 24/7 autonomous substation inspection and security monitoring,” explains Corbeth. “This put Sentinel in a real substation environment, to conduct inspections and security patrols amidst powerful electrical currents.”

In fact, there was a series of specific tests during the week-long demonstration. These included all permutations of the following:

  • With the substation energised and de-energised
  • With simulated rain and without rain
  • During daylight and at night

That makes for eight separate missions carried out in different conditions – including an energised substation with simulated rain during nighttime, and a de-energised substation on a clear day.

In addition, each of the above eight missions was carried out both via remote teleoperations – and also autonomously. Factor that in, and there were 16 separate challenges.

And that’s not all. EPRI engineers carried out their own tests on Sentinel, seeing how well it handled inclines, manoeuvres through mud, what weight it could carry at what speeds, and battery life. On these tests, Sentinel performed very well.

“Once we were on site, the value that Sentinel brings to utilities became very apparent – especially identifying thermal signatures to identify (overheating) components onsite or intruders trying to break in,” says Corbeth.

“The performance at night and during simulated rain tests was very successful. They actually have hoses that go overhead and can blast the site with water.”

FYI, the image below is a screenshot from the secure, browser-based controller for Sentinel. The operator can see all key parameters, control propulsion and camera systems, in real-time.


Lessons learned


At the outset, we told you this was very much a real-world test for Sentinel. If this article were simply a piece of marketing, we’d tell you that everything went perfectly. But it didn’t, and there were lessons learned.

For one thing, we discovered that Sentinel’s track-based locomotion – though ideal in numerous demanding terrains – fell somewhat short in the heavy gravel bed of this substation. Pieces of gravel got caught in the tracks from time to time. As a result, we’re now building a rugged wheel-based variant of Sentinel specifically for this kind of surface (though the tracked version will still be available).

We also faced some challenges with autonomous missions. For one thing, at the time of testing Sentinel did not yet have an optical-based docking system for wireless re-charging (it does now). We also originally thought that a GPS-based guidance system would work in this environment. And while it did, we soon realized that SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping) would be a better option. That feature will be integrated into Sentinels going forward.

“The opportunity to get onsite enabled us to test our autonomy package and understand what it’s good at, as well as what needs to be improved,” says Corbeth. “We believe we’re well on our way to a complete, 24/7 autonomous solution. I’d say we’re 85 per cent of the way there. This is new technology” 

InDro Engineer Austin Greisman on-site in Lenox with Sentinel

InDro Robotics Sentinel

InDro’s Take


Research and development, as we often say, is at the very core of InDro Robotics.  And a big part of R&D is testing outside of the confines of the lab.

And while we were very pleased with many aspects of Sentinel’s performance in the field, we also identified areas where there was room for improvement. Sentinel is now capable of fully autonomous docking to its wireless charging station, and we’re well along the path with fine-tuning SLAM on this device.

Full autonomy, as many of you know, is a difficult challenge. Whether it’s ground robots or drones, InDro has always taken a “Crawl, Walk, Run” approach. Sentinel is now hitting its stride with walking – and getting ready to run.