By Scott Simmie


Not long ago, it was just an idea.

Today, June 21, the Drone and Advanced Robotics Testing and Training Zone (DARTT) was publicly unveiled with a ribbon cutting ceremony and major public event. It’s the first facility of its kind in Canada.

“This is a huge asset for R&D companies, First Responders and Law Enforcement, Enterprise users – and more,” says InDro CEO Philip Reece. “It’s amazing to see this come to fruition so quickly, and it’s a testament to the strong partnership with – and vision of – Area X.O and Invest Ottawa.”

DARTT has been purpose-built to demanding criteria set out by NIST, the US-based National Institute of Standards and Technology. The goal? To put ground robots, drones and pilots through evidence-based exercises designed to test hardware/software capabilities, as well as human skills. The facility has also been built for high-level training.

The ground robot side features multiple challenging terrains built to evaluate the capabilities of ground robots. There are uneven surfaces, stairways – even an incline ramp that can be changed to different angles to test the ability of robots to climb. There are courses filled with sand, gravel and water to test mobility and Ingress Protection.

And drones? There’s a very large netted enclosure to permit testing of unproven drone technology in a safe environment. Failsafe testing, which can be risky in the wild, can also be accomplished without the need for a Transport Canada Special Flight Operations Certificate.

“The new DARTT Zone at Area X.O will help innovators and companies commercialize new robotic solutions and acquire specialized pilot training and certifications,” says Michael Tremblay, President and CEO of Invest Ottawa, Area X.O, and Bayview Yards.

“This will build Canada’s pool of top tech talent, and help firms get to market, customers, and revenue faster.”

Below: A Scout 2.0 navigates an uneven surface at DARTT




Some 200 people registered for the event to officially launch DARTT – including government officials, drone and robotics companies, engineers and even First Responders. They were keen to see first-hand the state-of-the-art facility, funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and in-kind industry contributions from InDro Robotics.

As we reported earlier, the genesis of this project came about through a simple discussion between InDro Robotics CEO Philip Reece and Rebecca Thompson, Senior Manager of Operations at Area X.O.

“It was actually a conversation between (InDro CEO) Philip (Reece) and myself,” explains Thompson. “Having InDro here at Area X.O as one of our tenants and partners – and given the amount of focus on drones and robots in the industry – we asked ‘How do we support these partners? What is Area X.O missing? What can we add on?’”

Reece suggested that an advanced facility for training, testing and evaluation would be of benefit. Such a place would fill a definite void – especially given the tremendous growth in both aerial and ground robots.

“When Philip brought forth the idea it was a no-brainer,” says Thompson.

And now…here we are:






Well, there will be many.

Manufacturers can put their ground robots and drones to the test in a safe environment. Timed courses can be used to measure skills improvement, such as the NIST bucket test – where drone pilots must precisely hover a drone and angle a gimbal to reveal numbers, letters and symbols placed in the bottom of angled buckets (particularly useful for First Responders and Search and Rescue operators). Robots can be tested for their ability to navigate sand, gravel, other uneven surfaces – even stairs and variable inclines.

Developers, InDro included, can test the ability of their own products in multiple environments in a single session. For those in the R&D world in particular, access to DARTT may well speed a product’s path to market.

“It will be First Responders, it will be SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), but it will also be regulators,” said InDro CEO Philip Reece at the launch.

“They’ll want to be assured that the equipment that we put out in the field is safe, is tested – that it will do what it’s supposed to do every time. We’ve got SMEs now who are saying: ‘How can we get on site to test our equipment?'”




Mike Nolan, Chief of County of Renfrew Paramedic Service, also spoke at the opening. Chief Nolan started out with drones about 10 years ago, running tests alongside Philip Reece out on farms in the very early days of UAVs. Since then, the technology has evolved exponentially – and drones are now considered an indispensable part of the toolkit of First Responders.

Chief Nolan sees great value in DARTT, and believes the role drones and ground robots play in his field (and others) will only grow.

“There isn’t a week that goes by when paramedics, police officers, firefighters aren’t using a drone for the search and rescue of individuals across Canada,” he said.

“This (DARTT) is an ideal playground for professionals. This allows us to be able to develop the technology, test the technology, work with our partners at NAV Canada, Transport Canada and others to be able to demonstrate that the acceleration of this technology is saving lives, and not putting lives at risk.”

Chief Nolan wasn’t the only speaker who saw the value of these tools.

“These are life-saving technologies,” said Sonya Shorey, VP of Strategy, Marketing and Communications with Invest Ottawa, Area X.O and Bayview Yards.

“These are technologies that will change the way we work, the way we operate, and how we deal with crises and disasters.”

Below: An InDro Sentinel tele-operated robot takes a splash in the water pool – which has three different depths of water.

Sentinel water DARTT



DARTT is a perfect fit with Area X.O – a private innovation hub founded and operated by Invest Ottawa. The facility is known for cutting-edge infrastructure, including roads designated for autonomous and remotely operated vehicles, complete with traffic lights, railroad crossings and smart sensors. Developers frequently test their products on those roads – but DARTT adds a completely new dimension for evidence-based evaluation.

“Ottawa is a global tech hub,” said Sonya Shorey. “Our region has the highest tech talent concentration in North America, ahead of Silicon Valley. There are more than 1750 technology companies, including smart mobility, drones and advanced robotics. And this facility is the first of its kind in Canada.”

In fact, it’s the first combined ground robot and drone testing/proving grounds in North America. And one of its big proponents is Area X.O’s Rebecca Thompson.

“This is a special day we have been working toward for many months,” said Thompson. “And this is just the beginning.”

Indeed, InDro is already working on highly specialised Micro-Credential courses that will be rolled out soon at DARTT. And the facility features a tether for the testing of drone taxis – part of the Jetson’s-like future that’s promised in the world of Advanced Air Mobility/Urban Air Mobility.

“We’ve built this site particularly for the future,” said Reece. “So Advanced Air Mobility…we’ve put a tethered system in here, so that we can bring that kind of equipment in and test it and know that it’s not going to fly away…”

Below: DARTT features a very large netted enclosure for safe testing of drones – and training of drone operators

DARTT Launch



InDro was obviously deeply involved with this project from the outset. In fact, InDro’s Brian Fentiman – who had a career with the RCMP and has deep expertise in law enforcement drone training – designed the course after extensive research.

Now you might think: Of course InDro is going to be pleased – the company will be doing the training and DARTT is right outside its back door.

While that’s true, that isn’t really what excites us the most.

“I see this as a huge asset for the industry proper,” says InDro CEO Philip Reece. “SMEs wanting to test and quickly improve products will now have year-round access to a facility that meets NIST criteria – where they can easily quantify success and even setbacks. I truly believe it will help companies produce better products and get them to market more quickly. And that’s good for all of us.”

Interested in more information?

  • Read more about DARTT here
  • Read the joint Area X.O/InDro Robotics News Release here
  • Get information on booking DARTT for testing or training here

We’ll have much more on this state-of-the-art facility in the days and weeks to come.

InDro Robotics, Area X.O team up to provide high-level drone, robot training

InDro Robotics, Area X.O team up to provide high-level drone, robot training

By Scott Simmie


InDro Robotics and Area X.O – the R&D complex for next-gen smart mobility, autonomy and connectivity founded and operated by Invest Ottawa with an emphasis on real-world robotics and IoT device testing – have joined forces to build and operate a new test centre at Area X.O’s private facility.

It will be dedicated to drone and robot testing, demonstration and trainingwith the physical site and training modules intended to reflect National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, criteria.

This type of drone training requires very precise drone piloting skills and produces a score. It’s used for high-level drone professionals, particularly law enforcement and other First Responders, extensively in the United States.

Leveraging critical new funding from the Government of Canada’s support through FedDev Ontario, the new facility at Area X.O will be the first of its kind in Canada. With instruction provided InDro Robotics, it will harness the capabilities and infrastructure of Area X.O, and create an entirely new resource for Canadian innovators and companies in a year-round setting.

Below: A rendering of the planned site. Note the caged area at rear for the safe evaluation of drones.



Extensive drone training…


The facility will offer multiple options for drone training, in addition to the new high-level course. These will include obtaining Basic and Advanced RPAS certificates, along with on-site flight reviews.

InDro already has an extensive background with training First Responders, as well as advanced commercial pilots. We’ve done this at InDro facilities and on-site for clients. And the online portal FLYY is a collaboration with Kate Klassen, one of Canada’s most respected drone instructors.

“Online instruction is a tremendous tool,” says Klassen. “But there’s something to be said for in-person, hands-on training once you’re talking about highly specialised skills.”

The facility will combine aerial and ground robotic training and testing – all in a single location.




It’s not just about the drones. InDro Robotics and Area X.O strive to offer training, skills development and evaluation of the capabilities of robots.

Want to learn how to teleoperate a robot? You’ll do it here.

You’ll also be able to put your robot (or one of InDro’s) through its paces. You’ll be operating on several different surfaces, feeling the difference as an operator when moving over concrete, various grades of gravel – even through sand and water. You’ll also be piloting your robot over varying types of obstacles, along with testing the ability to climb at various degrees of inclination (if you’re so inclined).

Want to pilot using a thermal camera? Or try testing autonomous detect-and-avoid and SLAM capabilities? We’ve got you covered.

“There really isn’t any other facility of this type in Canada,” says Reece. “InDro is proud to be partnering with Area X.O to bring this unique innovation to those in the aerial and ground robotics space.”

The criteria for ground robots will also follow standards that are accepted for the testing of robots themselves – as well as operators. 


The InDro connection


InDro Robotics has a long and respected tradition of offering training to drone professionals. We have trained police, firefighters and other First Responders on how to effectively use drones within the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARS part IX) regulations. We’re also fortunate to have former RCMP member Brian Fentiman – who was responsible for RCMP RPAS operations in British Columbia, on staff.

In fact, Brian created the layout for the course, and believes there are two types of clients who will want to use the test facility.

“I think there are going to be manufacturers that want their product tested, as well as police departments, fire departments, First Responders, as well as any professional agency that’s using drones,” he says.

“Part of the facility will also help other companies test ground robots – navigating curbs, driveways, inclines, sand, gravel, water and more. There’s also a netted enclosure that will allow drone manufacturers to test scenarios like GPS or compass failures and flyaways. This is a safe enclosure – technically, they are flying indoors and don’t have to seek special regulatory permissions or take on additional risk.”

Brian also points out that the facility has been designed to potentially grow over time, perhaps one day including a section for training in such areas as HUSAR – Heavy Urban Search and Rescue.

For a better idea of what the initial site will look like, check out the video below.


Area X.O: A competitive advantage


Area X.O is already a one-of-a-kind facility. On any given day you’ll see robots taking advantage of the private roads and traffic lights used for Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) testing – or drones being flown to evaluate new capabilities.

The new test centre will enhance Area X.O’s capacity for testing, training, evaluation and development, in conjunction with InDro’s expertise.

“InDro Robotics is a world leader in advanced robotic and drone R&D, and one of the very first companies in Canada to be certified by Transport Canada to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS),” said Kelly Daize, Strategic Market Director of Area X.O. “We are delighted that InDro is building an R&D team onsite with us at Area X.O with 20 engineers and counting.” 

“Having this world leader co-located at our private R&D facility creates an immense competitive advantage for the innovators and companies we serve,” said Rebecca Thompson, Senior Manager of Operations, Area X.O. “We are excited to build on our collaboration and put InDro’s industry leadership, technology and certified capabilities to work to accelerate the commercialization of new robotic solutions and build the pipeline of related expertise.”

Below: InDro CEO Philip Reece at Area X.O during the TCXPO event

InDro Robotics

InDro’s take


We’re pleased to be involved with this project – which, to the best of our knowledge – is the first of its kind in Canada.

With InDro’s background in both drone training and robotics R&D, we’re confident this will be a perfect match for our skillset.

“Flying drones professionally, and operating robots, is a skill,” says InDro CEO Philip Reece.

“We look forward to offering our services at this facility to First Responders and professional operators from across Canada on a year-round basis. Whether it’s drones or robots, we anticipate this will become the go-to site for elevating skills and testing product capabilities in a controlled environment. We’re also pleased to again be collaborating with the excellent Area X.O and Invest Ottawa teams.”

Construction on the new facility will begin shortly, with operations expected to commence by summer, 2023.


Spexi offers broad range of geospatial tools for drone pilots

Spexi offers broad range of geospatial tools for drone pilots

A Canadian firm has been quietly gaining customers – and a reputation – with its broad palette of geospatial tools for drone operations.

That company is Vancouver-based Spexi.

And while it might not be a household name yet, a growing number of professional drone operators are using its palette of tools (including its mobile app), to plan efficient and accurate flights for the gathering of geospatial data.

The Spexi platform has been designed for a wide variety of sectors requiring actionable data from above, including real estate, construction, precision agriculture and more.

On the real estate front, here’s an example of a panorama produced with Spexi. Get in there with your mouse and scroll around. You can also zoom via scroll or pinching on your trackpad.

The big picture


That panorama was seamless, and with great resolution even zoomed in. But it’s only one of many offerings on the Spexi platform. So let’s take a step back for a look at the bigger picture.

The Spexi website outlines the company’s many offerings, along with features of its powerful mobile app.

In terms of data products, Spexi offers the following:

  • 3D models and point clouds showing proportionality of the building and structural features
  • High resolution image galleries with annotations for easy collaboration
  • Up-to-date Google Map tiles showing the property with the ability to measure slopes & volumes and annotate features
  • High resolution image galleries with annotations for easy collaboration
  • 360˚ panoramas with hot spots for points of interest

Here’s a look at a volumetric calculation captured and computed via Spexi. Beats trying to do this manually:


The Spexi app


A large part of the Spexi value proposition is its mobile app. It allows pilots to quickly plan flight parameters, carry out autonomous data capturing missions, upload and crunch the data – and share the resulting files with stakeholders.

Specific features of the app include:

  • Planning tools for efficient and accurate data acquisition
  • Autonomous flight using the latest DJI drones
  • Secure, cloud-based footage processing and sharing
  • Spexi can carry out survey work using Ground Control Points.

Not a pilot but need a job? Spexi offers access to its network of pilots who can take on the mission on your behalf.



Good question. Spexi offers a couple of options here, suitable both for those requiring the odd one-off job as well as Enterprise users.

If you’re interested in only the occasional mission, Spexi offers both value and incentive via its “credit” option. Sign up for a free account and you’ll receive five credits. A single credit can be used for a job like the panorama you saw above. A single credit covers up to 100 uploaded images and processing. So just by signing up you can cover five jobs like this. Additional credits can be purchased for $15 each.

Users with high volume processing needs can sign up for the monthly plan. It allows for the processing of up to 3,000 images per month at a cost of $300 per month. If you’re an ultra heavy user, Spexi offers packages for requirements exceeding 3,000 monthly images.

“Our goal is really to help companies and people transform their operations to be more efficient using drones and make better decisions with drone-based data,” explains Spexi Chief Operating Officer Alec Wilson – a helicopter pilot with a degree in geography and remote sensing. He was also a key part of the team that built Coastal Drones into a large online learning platform.

“Spexi is really the only Canadian drone software-based platform that can service contracts at this scale,” he says.

Spexi has already received a vote of confidence from the federal government. Innovative Solutions Canada offered financial backing to Spexi on its path to commercialization and enabled testing and evaluation of the product, including some pretty ambitious missions. Here’s COO Wilson, in a video explaining just one of multiple projects it carried out as a result.

Just the beginning


Though Spexi is already an easy-to-use platform with mutiple use-cases, expect more features to come. With the promise of routine BVLOS flight hopefully somewhere around the corner, COO Alec Wilson has ambitious plans for the near future.

“Looking into the future, we see our platform being used to produce drone-based data at much larger scales,” he says.

“There are some amazing new emerging technologies that enable collaboration in ways we have never seen before.  We are in the infancy of this technology, and we at Spexi have some big plans to get drone-based data into the hands of those who need it most including leveraging BVLOS capabilities once available.”

Plans also include collaboration and integration with the FLYY training platform, enabling students to take a deep dive into Spexi’s capabilities. More on that soon.

InDro’s Take


We’re pleased to see a Canadian data acquisition and processing company begin to make its name in the field. While it’s up against some stiff competition from larger photogrammetry companies, the Spexi platform is simple to use and powerful – with plans for enhanced capabilities as the industry evolves. Its option for pay-as-you-go credits for those requiring one-off missions is attractive and a great way to test the waters (especially with five free credits on sign-up).

InDro Robotics has some collaboration underway with Spexi, and anticipates this relationship will only grow. More details on that…down the road.


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New drone instruction portal lets new pilots go ‘FLYY’

New drone instruction portal lets new pilots go ‘FLYY’

By Scott Simmie

Thinking about earning your Basic or Advanced RPAS Certificate but don’t know where to start? Want some tools to help prep for your Transport Canada required Flight Review? Looking for some answers in a friendly, supportive community of drone pilots?

Look no further. InDro Robotics is very pleased to announce FLYY, an online drone learning portal with an incredible amount of offerings and features. What’s more, the person behind this major initiative is none other than InDro’s Kate Klassen, a highly respected professional and instructor in both the traditional aviation world as well as the drone sector.


If seeing that image of Kate in a studio rings a bell, that’s understandable: Kate developed and fronted one of the most successful online drone courses in Canada. Now, she’s taken all of that experience and expertise and put it into a comprehensive learning platform with multiple course offerings. There’s something for everyone, ranging from the absolute beginner to seasoned pros looking to up their game. There’s even a brand new and supportive Forum, where Kate and others can weigh in with helpful tips or answer questions. No trolls here; just a collaborative and growing community eager to learn and share.

We’re excited. And so is Kate.

“I’ve constructed the FLYY courses and guides to ensure success for those seeking to become Basic or Advanced RPAS pilots,” she says. “It was so fun to get back into content creation mode and then into the studio to record this training – no promises my jokes have gotten any better though!”

Special FLYY launch discount


We could go on and on. But we also issued a news release about this – so no point reinventing the rotor! We’ll paste that release in a second so you can see all the details, but wanted to point out that FLYY is offering 15% off until March 1. So if you’re in Canada and want to be ready for spring piloting, hop on over to the FLYY website and take a look at some of the course offerings.

Believe us, there’s something for everyone, including helpful FLYY Guides and even Flight Reviews. Once you’ve made your selection, apply the code FLYY15 at checkout.

Drone Training

The news release


Okay, for those of you looking for even more information, you can see our news release below, or download it here.

Happy piloting…and congratulations, Kate Klassen. Having been through the site, we can tell you she has done an absolutely amazing job with these comprehensive, Transport Canada compliant course offerings.

Drone Training