2022 InDro Highlights

2022 InDro Highlights

Wow. Another year has passed.

And for InDro Robotics, it was a year marked by new products, new deployments, and multiple milestones.

We did a deep dive on the year with our Year in Review story, which you can find here. But we realise some people might prefer a condensed version. So here we go, starting with the image above.

That’s Sentinel, our rugged teleoperated robot for remote inspections. We launched that product at the very beginning of 2022. It’s been designed for remote inspections, carried out over 4G and 5G networks. We customise Sentinel’s sensors based on client needs, but the standard model comes with a 30x optical Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera, thermal sensor, and a high-res wide-angle camera that gives the operator a clear view of surroundings.

Operations are a snap, using an Xbox controller plugged into a laptop with a comprehensive dashboard. Even dense data can be streamed and downloaded in real-time over 5G. In fact, we’ve proven Sentinel’s minimal-latency capabilities from more than 4,000 kilometres away. (That took place from Bellevue, Washington State, where we were invited to demo our system by T-Mobile.)

It didn’t take long for word to get around. A couple of months after Sentinel’s launch, we were invited to put it through its paces at the Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI. Check out this next image – it’s a frame grab from the Sentinel dashboard, and was captured during a mission at an EPRI testbed electrical substation in Lenox, Massachussetts.

Automated Robot Control

There’s a lot we could tell you about Sentinel but we’re trying to keep this tight. If you’d like more in-depth details you can read this story, or reach out to superstar Account Executive Luke Corbeth here

InDro Commander

INDRO COMMANDER

A significant part of what gives Sentinel its various superpowers is an innovation we call InDro Commander. It’s a bolt-on box that contains a camera, EDGE computer, a 4G- and 5G-compatible modem and the ROS1 and ROS2 software libraries. That means it’s a snap for clients to add any additional sensors they’d like without the hassle of coding. 

You can operate any InDro Commander-enabled platform using an Xbox controller over a highly intuitive dashboard on your desktop or laptop. FYI, that box you see just above the InDro Logo (and just below the camera) in the image below? That’s InDro Commander.

DRONES

Though InDro has a stellar reputation for ground robotics, the company was founded on the Unmanned Aerial System side of things. So we’ve been busy in that arena, as well.

The most significant development of the year is a software and hardware package we call InDro Pilot. In a nutshell, it’s a bolt-on module that’s similar to Commander. It enables remote BVLOS operations over 4G or 5G, dense data throughput, simplified sensor integration – plus the ability to broadcast to nearby traditional crewed aircraft that drone operations are taking place in the vicinity. 

That hexagonal box in the image is Version 1.0 of the hardware side. We’ve since created a much smaller and lighter version, capable of transforming any Enterprise drone using the Pixhawk flight controller into a low-latency, BVLOS super-RPAS.

InDro Pilot

GROUND (BREAKING) DELIVERIES

In 2022, InDro teamed up with London Drugs to test out ground deliveries via our ROLL-E robot. 

There were two separate trials. The first, in Victoria, involved ROLL-E taking goods ordered online to a parking lot for touchless, curbside delivery. The second, in Surrey BC, involved the second generation of ROLL-E delivering goods from a London Drugs outlet to a consumer’s home. ROLL-E features 4G and 5G teleoperation, and is equipped with a total of six cameras (including two depth-perception cameras), giving the operator tremendous spatial awareness.

That’s ROLL-E 2.0, in the image below. Its secure cargo bay – which unlocks when the robot reaches its destination – can carry up to 50 kilograms.

Automated Delivery

GOOD DOG

Also in 2022, InDro Robotics became a North American distributor for the Unitree line of quadruped robots. These rugged, agile robots are well-suited to a variety of tasks, including remote inspection. In the video below, Luke Corbeth puts the entry-level GO 1 through its paces.

InDro backpack

Remember InDro Commander, the box that enables remote teleoperations and easy sensor integration? We figured a module like that could really expand the capabilities of the Unitree quadrupeds. 

And so – you guessed it – we built it. We call this device InDro Backpack, and you can see it on the robot below.

InDro Backpack

meet limo

InDro Robotics is also a North American distributor of the excellent AgileX robot line. This past year saw the introduction of a very cool machine for education and R&D called LIMO. It comes with an impressive number of features straight out of the box, including:

  • 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)

It’s a powerful, SLAM-capable machine. Best of all? It’s really affordable.

InDro Robotics Limo

montreal marathon

Three InDro employees took part in the Montreal Marathon – but they were largely standing still.

In fact, they were operating sub-250 gram drones as part of a medical research pilot project. The drones – two were constantly in the air throughout the run – were positioned at a point near the end of the course where runners sometimes encounter medical distress. Live feeds from the drones were monitored in a tent by researchers for two reasons: To see if the aerial view could help them quickly identify someone needing help, and to help pinpoint their location so assistance could be rapidly dispatched.

The results? The drone feeds helped quickly identify and locate two runners in need of help

“The view from above when monitoring moving crowds is just incomparable,” says Dr. Valérie Homier, an Emergency Physician at McGill University Health Centre and the lead researcher on the project. 

Below: InDro pilots Kaiwen Xu, Ella Hayashi and Liam Dwyer.

InDro Robotics Team

TCXpo

One of the highlights of the year was the TCXpo event at Area X.O in Ottawa. Sponsored by Transport Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, it was a full day of demonstrations from Canadian leaders in the world of Smart Mobility. 

InDro was there, of course, displaying our InDro Pilot-enabled Wayfinder drone, as well a *lot* of ground robots. CEO Philip Reece moderated a panel – and was also in charge of airspace for multiple drone demonstrations. That’s Philip, below, talking about aerial and ground robotics to attendees.

InDro Robotics Philip Reece
InDro Robotics Training

training

Speaking of drones, we also launched drone training and resource portal FLYY. Online lessons are carried out by our own Kate Klassen, widely recognised as one of the best (and most qualified) drone instructors in North America. Whether you’re looking to obtain your Basic or Advanced RPAS certificate, or want to further expand your skills, Kate’s got the goods.

If you’re looking for training for multiple people, Kate offers discounts for companies and educational institutes. You can reach her here.

it's a secret...

The other big thing happening in 2022 (and continuing in 2023) was InDro’s work with major global clients. We can’t disclose that work due to non-disclosure agreements, but we can tell you we’re busy with multiple, exciting, ongoing projects!

Finally, we closed out 2022 with another successful InDro Hack-a-Thon. Employees were given a day and a half to work on a project or process that could benefit InDro down the road. Once again, Team InDro delivered, with some amazing projects completed within the deadline. You can read all about it here

a final word...

As you can see, it’s been quite a year – and CEO Philip Reece couldn’t be happier.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work InDro accomplished in 2022,” he says. “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.”

Very true. Now stay tuned for an even more amazing 2023.

And if you’d like to reach InDro, just give that little orange button a click. Though we’ve got plenty of robots, we’ll make sure a real human being gets back to you shortly.

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.

 

Commander

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. https://t.co/aFOVT0iE1n— 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:

Meet LIMO

 

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

TCXpo

 

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 ROLL-E

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.

CONTACT

INDRO ROBOTICS
305, 31 Bastion Square,
Victoria, BC, V8W 1T9

P: 1-844-GOINDRO
(1-844-464-6376)

E: Info@InDroRobotics.com

copyright 2022 © InDro Robotics all rights reserved