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 X.O



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



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 wheels



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

Custom robot X.O



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.




By Scott Simmie


If you follow InDro Robotics, you’ll likely be aware that we were a co-founder and core technology partner of the YOW Drone Detection Pilot Project.

The system has been operating since the fall of 2020, and detects drone intrusions not only at the Ottawa International Airport, but as far as 40 kilometres away in the National Capital Region. Data from the project helps to inform airport protocols and is shared on a regular basis with Transport Canada and law enforcement.

Back during the “Freedom Convoy” protests in downtown Ottawa, the system got onto the mainstream radar after we published this story, which outlined the high number of unauthorised drone flights taking place in downtown Ottawa. The Ottawa Citizen covered that story here and it was also a cover story for WINGS Magazine.

Now, the system is back in the news for a different reason: The recent visit of US President Joe Biden to Ottawa.

US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau



Prior to the actual visit, advance teams from the Secret Service and Air Force One wanted to check out security and logistics at the Ottawa International Airport. And one of the first questions? Whether YOW had a drone detection system.

The answer, as you know, is Yes. We interviewed Michael Baudette, YOW’s VP of Security, Emergency Management and Customer Transportation. The resulting post garnered a lot of attention, including a lengthy interview by CBC Ottawa.

To view the segment on the Drone Detection Pilot project, please scrub ahead to 46:07


 The YOW Drone Detection Pilot Project has been in operation since November of 2020, and has created a wealth of data. It has helped the Ottawa International Airport develop protocols for incursions, and has led to even catching one operator flying a large drone very close to the flight path of jets. NAV Canada is a partner on this project, and Transport Canada receives regular reports.

“This system works well, but it also operates behind-the-scenes in relative obscurity,” says InDro CEO Philip Reece. “It’s great to see this coverage, which gives the general public a better understanding of the value of these systems. Michael Beaudette has been a tremendous backer of this system since the outset, so we were also pleased to see him front and centre.”

InDro is a core technology partner in the YOW Drone Detection Pilot Project. The system has proven itself, and we believe it’s an excellent model for other airports and sensitive facilities. If that interests you and you’d like to learn more, feel free to hit us up here.

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 drone 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.'”


FAA InDro Waiver solar farms

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

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

By Scott Simmie


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

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

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

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

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




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


On with the show!


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

But why a dog house?

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

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

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


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

Product renders


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

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

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

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

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


Big dog


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

Unitree B1



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

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

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

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

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

Pixhawk simulation InDro Hack-a-Thon

EVA drives in virtual space


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

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

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

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

Saving search time…


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

Trust us, it’s a lot of stuff.

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

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

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




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

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

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

InDro Pilot NERDS

Shrinky, shrinky


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

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

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

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

Multitasking router


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

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

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

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

InDro Sentinel

One-stop shopping


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

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

Why yes. Yes, it would.

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

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

Hack-a-Thon Luke

And the Winners Are…

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

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

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


InDro’s Take


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

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

2022: A great year for InDro Robotics

2022: A great year for InDro Robotics

By Scott Simmie


We thought, as we embark on a New Year, it might be fun to look back on the year that was. Specifically, to document some of the highlights that occurred within InDro Robotics.

Most of you are familiar with the company by now. For those who aren’t, InDro is a Research and Development company. We identify market needs and create new solutions we sell to clients. Sometimes companies (including very big ones) approach InDro and ask us to help them solve a problem. We also do service provision, deploying ground and aerial robots (drones) globally for complex tasks and data acquisition. In addition, we collaborate on many research projects, looking at new ways that technology can be put to positive use-cases.

You can get the Big Picture in this What InDro Does feature, but that’s it in a nutshell.

But what does that look R&D look like in the real world? Let’s recap our 2022 successes, starting with the launch of our Sentinel remote inspection robot.

Remote inspection workhorse


Sentinel has been built, from the ground up, with one purpose in mind: To carry out remote inspections of facilities such as electrical substations or solar farms. These inspections are carried out over 4G or 5G, meaning the facility could be hundreds – even thousands – of kilometres away.

Sentinel’s rugged mobility has its roots in the workhorse Bunker platform. Featuring tread locomotion, it’s ideal for locations where the environment can at times be hostile. Mud, snow, ice are no deterrent. So that’s the brawn.

The brains come from InDro Robotics. Specifically, the addition of our InDro Commander module; the black and orange box sitting on top of the Bunker.



InDro Commander


This module plays a significant role with Sentinel and other 2022 products. Commander is a bolt-on solution that enables remote teleoperations over 4G or 5G, as well as rapid sensor integration and other robot modifications. It contains a powerful Edge computer for onboard processing, as well as the complete Robot Operating System software libraries (ROS1 and ROS2). It’s literally Plug & Play – eliminating the time and hassle of manual sensor integration. You can get the full scoop on Commander here.

With Commander connected to the Bunker base, our engineers were ready to start customizing Sentinel. They added a 30x optical Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) camera – complete with a lens ‘windshield wiper’ for inclement weather – a thermal sensor and LiDAR. They also enabled wireless charging, and programmed optical recognition so that Sentinel can autonomously back up to its charging dock.

Plus, we made Sentinel super simple to operate. Running a dashboard on your laptop or desktop, you simply plug in an Xbox controller to control direction, speed and the camera’s PTZ functions. And the data? It comes into the dashboard with an easy-to-understand display. You can even customise it so that, for example, detection of a component with temperatures exceeding a predefined limit will set off an alert.

Below: A screengrab of the detailed Sentinel dashboard, during a mission you’ll hear about in a moment…

Sentinel EPRI

A substation solution


InDro developed Sentinel with remote teleoperation in mind. Specifically, for facilities like electrical substations, solar farms, etc. These installations are typically in rural locations, far from the nearest major city. They also tend to be unstaffed, requiring frequent inspection trips by human beings. In addition to scheduled monitoring, people are frequently dispatched following severe weather events to assess whether there’s been damage.

Wouldn’t it be easier to have a remotely teleoperated robot do the job on demand? We believe so.

In fact, we’re not the only ones with this kind of vision for remote inspection. One of the highlights of 2022 was being invited to Lenox, Massachusetts, by the Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI. The non-profit institute is constantly carrying out research to look at how new technologies can be put to use to improve the generation and distribution of electrical power. Or, as it puts it, “driving innovation to ensure the public has clean, safe, reliable, affordable, and equitable access to electricity across the globe.”

It shares its findings with some 450 utilities and companies around the globe. And when it heard about Sentinel, InDro was invited down to its test facility. We spent a week there, putting Sentinel through its paces inspecting an EPRI test lab electrical substation. The facility can be energised or de-energised to determine whether electrical-magnetic fields interfere with test devices. It can simulate heavy rain through a set of overhead water pipes capable of drenching the facility. Plus, we ran the tests during the day and overnight, using both teleoperations and autonomous missions.

We were pleased with how Sentinel performed, and also learned a few things to even further tweak its capabilities. So Sentinel – which has been deployed as far away as a California solar farm – is definitely one of our 2022 highlights. You can learn more about our EPRI testing here.

Below: A video that offers a snapshot of key Sentinel features. This was Sentinel 1.0; we’ve since lowered the PTZ camera and made other enhancements.

The aerial side of things


While we’ve been looking at ground robots, InDro is very much involved in the world of drones. In fact, the company’s early years were pretty much exclusively devoted to R&D and service provision in the drone world. That’s still a large part of what we do.

An early 2022 highlight (and one of several) was our work with the Ottawa International Airport’s (YOW) Drone Detection Pilot Project. The program involves long-range drone detection hardware and software from InDro Robotics and micro-doppler radar detection from QinetiQ. Collectively, this technology provides a comprehensive look at any drone operations taking place in the vicinity of the airport – and beyond.

YOW, in conjunction with NAV Canada, is interested in getting a better picture of drone traffic in order to ensure the safety of crewed aircraft and to develop protocols should a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System pose a threat to traditional aircraft.

But data collected in early 2022 was an eye-opener. During the anti-vaccine mandate protests in Ottawa, InDro’s longer-range system detected drones flying in a restricted flight zone over Parliament Hill and elsewhere in the downtown Ottawa core, with a spike during police operations to clear the protests. A total of 27 different drones carried out 59 flights over a period of four days. Of those, 25 flights exceeded 400’ above ground level (Transport Canada’s limit, except in special circumstances). These flights all took place in restricted airspace. A small number were carried out by law enforcement, but the vast majority were not. Fifteen unique drone IDs were detected, and one flight took place at 1583′ AGL – nearly four times the legal altitude limit.

You’ll get a look at some of the data in the images below; you can also read an in-depth story here. The Ottawa Citizen also wrote about this. Finally, on the drone detection front, it’s worth noting that a sister company, Bravo Zulu Secure, specialises in both drone detection and mitigation. 


YOW Drone Detection

Expanding the capabilities of drones


InDro Robotics was a pioneer in remote operations, obtaining Canada’s first Special Flight Operations Certificates for Beyond Visual Line of Sight flights carried out over 4G and 5G networks. And we continue to push the envelope.

At our Area X.O facility, 2022 saw us successfully complete a technology challenge in conjunction with Ericsson, the Ontario Centre of Innovation, and the ENCQOR 5G network. The challenge involved building a drone with very specific capabilities, including enhanced BVLOS safety features and dense data transmission capabilities.

It was called the NERDs project – Network Enhanced Realtime Drone project. Here are some of the milestones it achieved:

  • 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


And how did we do it?


Area X.O took the lead on this project, building a module we call InDro Capsule. That capsule contained – among other things – a high-speed 5G modem, an Edge computer, and a software defined radio capable of informing crewed aircraft that a drone operation was taking place in the vicinity. Streaming, uncompressed 4K video also enhanced situational awareness for the pilot.

InDro Capsule has been designed to work with Enterprise drones using the Pixhawk flight controller. And so, just as the InDro Commander enables remote and secure teleoperations for ground robots, InDro Capsule is an add-on that can transform an Enterprise drone into a sophisticated BVLOS machine. If you’re interested in taking a deep dive on the NERDs project, InDro has produced a White Paper. You’ll find that here

The first-generation InDro Capsule is that black hexagonal box seen below. InDro has now reduced its size and weight, and is currently deploying Capsule-enabled drones for remote industrial operations in South America. Those missions will be remotely tele-operated by Indro Robotics pilots in Canada.

InDro Pilot NERDS

InDro Pilot


We knew the InDro Capsule module had the potential to truly transform the capabilities of Enterprise drones with Pixhawk flight controllers. And so we didn’t stop there. We built an entire platform to make the most of it. We call it InDro Pilot. 

In a nutshell, it brings about both enhanced capabilities for the drone itself (ie 4G, 5G, dense data realtime uploads etc.) as well as enhanced options for the drone operator to further customize drone sensors and peripherals for any given mission via dashboard. All of that data is encrypted for secure download, direct-to-cloud upload, and Command & Control communication between the drone and our InDro Base ground station.

Because InDro Capsule enables the swift integration of additional sensors, we wanted to make that easy for the operator as well. InDro Pilot allows the pilot to customize their drone by simply adding software widgets for specific sensors. 

You can find more details in this post about InDro Pilot. But we’ll leave you with a glimpse of our winch widget. Others are available for LiDAR, thermal and other sensors. It’s simply drag and drop. We’ll be rolling out more about this in 2023, including the much smaller, commercial version of InDro Capsule.

InDro Pilot Winch

ROLL-E and London Drugs


It was also quite a year for InDro delivery robots. Specifically, the deployment of our teleoperated ROLL-E and ROLL-E 2.0 in two separate pilot projects in conjunction with London Drugs.

The western Canadian retailer was initially interested in seeing how consumers might react to receiving curbside deliveries from a robot – and how such deliveries might fit into the company’s future plans. InDro had previously partnered with London Drugs to demonstrate the secure delivery of prescription drugs to remote locations via drone, so it was logical to partner up on this effort as well.

Because of the global pandemic, some consumers are more comfortable with curbside pickups rather than entering a store. So the first pilot project, at a single London Drugs location in Victoria, focussed on that. Customers would place their orders online; ROLL-E would deliver their order to a pickup point in the parking lot outside.

The results? People seemed to like the robot. And a local CTV reporter even had a little fun with ROLL-E.

A London Drugs store in Victoria is the first to test out a new remote controlled delivery robot for curbside service.— CTV News Vancouver Island (@CTVNewsVI) April 9, 2022

London Drugs, Part II


Those first curbside pickups were a success. And so we pushed ahead with a more sophisticated version of ROLL-E, coming up with a second-generation version. It has a secure and large cargo bay with a whopping 50kg capacity. And London Drugs was eager to try it out, this time for home deliveries in Surrey, BC.

ROLL-E 2.0 (which some employees have affectionately named “EVA”), featured some significant upgrades from the original, including:

  • A total of six cameras, including two sets of depth perception cameras at the front and rear for greater situational awareness for the operator
  • LED running lights, signal lights, brake lights
  • Greater all-weather protection and a touchscreen interface for customers

And how did it perform? Well, like this:

Good dog


The year 2022 also brought us a new product line, and a new partnership. Specifically, we’re talking about Unitree Robotics – a Chinese manufacturer of highly capable and affordable quadruped robots.

We’ve already been modifying these robots, adding on something we call the InDro Backpack. That’s the equivalent of the InDro Commander, which allows for teleoperations and additional sensor integration. We’ve even mounted a LiDAR sensor on one of the Unitree robots, with excellent results. We see a lot of potential for remote inspections with these machines in 2023. Indro Robotics is proud to be a North American distributor of the Unitree line.

Plus, these robots are just a lot of fun. Here’s InDro account executive Luke Corbeth with the entry-level GO-1:



2022 also saw the release of the LIMO robot, intended for educational purposes, R&D and more. As a distributor in North America, we’ve delivered LIMO to many clients who have been doing their own R&D work with this very versatile and smart machine. It comes, out-of-the-box, with the following:

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

Customers love this thing – and so do we. If you’d like to learn more about LIMO, check this out.

AgileX Limo robot



One of our highlights of the year was the TCXpo, a major public event put on by Transport Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, and Area X.O. InDro Robotics was one of the sponsors. Many Canadian technology companies were displaying their products, with an emphasis on Smart Mobility and other IoT devices.

InDro had its robots out in full swing; CEO Philip Reece was in charge of the airspace for the drone demonstrations – and a moderator for one of the excellent panel discussions. It was amazing to see the range of technologies on display and a clear sign that Smart Mobility is well on its way. Even the rain didn’t dampen the excitement.

You’ll hear a bit from Philip at the 2:18 mark of this video, and see him at 2:49.

Wait, there’s more!


Thanks for getting this far. We know you’ve got other things to do in 2023, so we’ll put a bow on this quickly with a few additional things we were up to in 2022.

Sister company Aerometrix continued its work doing methane detection and monitoring, using InDro Robotics pilots to carry out the work. The company has mapped methane emissions at petrochemical plants, gas wells, landfills – and even on agricultural sites. More on that work here.

We embarked on major long-term research at the University of British Columbia, in conjunction with Rogers, Honeywell and others. The project will use AI to help predict energy requirements for drone flights, taking into account payload, weather conditions, etc. It will also examine the capacity for 5G to carry out multiple simulataneous drone missions with minimal latency and interference. It will even compare the relative energy requirements of hydrogen-powered drones versus traditional LiPo batteries. Many more details can be found here.

We also launched FLYY, an online drone learning portal featuring one of Canada’s most recognized and respected instructors – InDro’s own Kate Klassen. If you’re looking to obtain your Basic or Advanced RPAS Certificate, schedule a Flight Review – or take a deeper dive into many other other drone course offerings – you’ll find it at FLYY. And if you’re part of an educational or company program, we offer group discounts. Email Kate for more info here.

Ssshhhhhh… it’s secret!


Finally, InDro continued work – and embarked on new work – with some very high-profile global clients in 2022. We can’t name names here due to NDAs, but we’re very pleased to be working on such interesting projects with such amazing companies. Trust us on this one; cool stuff is happening.


InDro’s Take


A company is, ultimately, only as good as its team. The accomplishments of 2022 reflect the skills, dedication and hard work of InDro employees in Vancouver, Victoria and at our Area X.O office in Ottawa.

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

That’s very true. On behalf of InDro Robotics, we wish you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2023.

We look forward to sharing more as the year unfolds.


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