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A career move to be at the forefront of drone technology

Apr 25, 2022

Welcome to Invest Ottawa’s Taking Root segment. Each month, this reoccurring article will highlight a driven tech or business professional who took advantage of Invest Ottawa’s talent program and successfully landed a role at a star technology company in Canada’s capital city!

Through Taking Root, you’ll learn the ins and outs of their new position and hear firsthand what it’s like to relocate to Ottawa.

1003 words | 6 minutes
By: Jessica Murphy

Kaiwen Xu was already well into a successful career in drone technology when he moved to Ottawa late last year to work as a systems engineer at InDro Robotics, a Canadian company specializing in research and development of remote-piloted air and ground vehicles. Six months later, he’s found there’s nothing like working at an industry-leading R&D firm to shake things up. “I’m still learning new things every day,” he says. “All these things I’ve never done before — I have a chance to learn them and have people teaching me. It’s amazing.”

A dream opportunity to be on the front lines of UAV R&D

Kaiwen Xu holding a drone controller and looking up into the sky

Part of what’s new is the nature of the work he’s doing. Where in his former position he was largely behind the scenes — teaching engineers at other robotics firms how to integrate his company’s hardware and software into their own drones — he’s now right out in front, working with the equipment hands on. “When I moved here, I started doing the hands-on integration work myself, which is incredibly exciting.”

He probably couldn’t ask for a better place to get his hands (metaphorically) dirty.

InDro’s R&D facility is located in Ottawa’s Area X.O, a 1,866-acre, state-of-the-art test environment tucked away on the site of an old government farm in the city’s west end. Powered by one of the most advanced communication test infrastructures in the world — including GPS systems, 4G/LTE, WiFi, TV white space, satellite communications and authentic pre-commercial 5G — the living lab-style compound is essentially a giant sandbox for companies, entrepreneurs and researchers from around the world to develop and validate next-gen technologies like autonomous vehicles, drones and smart agriculture solutions under real-world conditions.

InDro shares the space with other R&D leaders, from small start-ups to global giants like Ericsson, Microsoft and Nokia, and companies often come together as R&D collaborators, contributing their talent and tech to projects.

Established and managed by Invest Ottawa, Area X.O is just one of the ways the city is showing its commitment to attracting the best tech talent and companies — and Kaiwen’s seeing it pay off. “Ottawa right now is a tech centre in Canada. Lots of big companies are moving here, there are lots of local companies — there are just so many opportunities here.”

Making an impact with life-saving tech

An image of InDro Robotics UAV droneInDro’s known for putting UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) technology to positive, potentially life-saving use, with long relationships to the first responder community in Canada and disaster relief agencies and researchers around the world.

As one of only four Canadian companies to be granted Transport Canada’s rare Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) certification — approval to fly beyond the remote pilot’s visual range — they can send their drones places most other companies can’t, like into the dense smoke above a burning building to identify hot spots or over a mountain for a bird’s eye view in a search and rescue mission.

Other potential emergency and medical applications include shuttling blood and medical supplies between hospitals and to hard-to-reach areas — for example, bypassing chaos on the streets in the wake of a natural disaster.

Working on the R&D side of things has not only brought Kaiwen closer to the equipment — it’s also given him better insight into the value of the technology and the difference it can make to people and industries. “I’m able to see people use the things we develop n life-saving scenarios, which motivates me to do more,” he says. “It’s something I never saw in my previous behind-the-scenes role.”

A fresh start for a new family

When Kaiwen and his wife decided to make the move to Ottawa, they weren’t just looking for work — they were looking for a place to put down family roots and raise their young son. The transition was smoother than they could’ve hoped. For one, his wife quickly found a great job of her own — at InDro Robotics. “It’s been amazing,” Kaiwen says. “We can carpool every day.”

The convenient work arrangement also means they can both take advantage of the company’s flexible scheduling to care for their son. “I can come to work early in the morning and leave earlier in the afternoon, or I can start later and leave later. I have a kid, so I need a lot of flexibility. At InDro, I never worry about time and schedule — I just give my manager a heads-up and I can go.”

The city has also made the transition easy for them. Ottawa’s known as an ideal place to raise kids, and Barrhaven, the suburban neighbourhood Kaiwen and his family settled in, is a particular favourite of young families for its good schools and ubiquitous parks and playgrounds. “In a ten-minute walk, I can find six or seven parks — it’s just an amazing place for kids,” he says.

Kaiwen Xu smiling, outside during the winter, with his arms around his wife and son.With one winter down — and, Kaiwen notes, happily mild compared to Winnipeg’s sub-minus-thirty lows — the family’s looking forward to the warm weather. “I’m looking forward to seeing the summer in Ottawa — everyone says it’s beautiful. I’m planning to go fishing, and I want to take my family to the beach, to restaurants, to the national park. There are so many things we want to do — we want to go everywhere.”

Mostly, though, Kaiwen and his wife are excited to grow as a family in the city. “Ottawa has provided us with a lot of growth opportunities — living, working, our kid’s education, every aspect,” he says. “I’m excited to see my family adapting to life in Ottawa.

Interested in exploring career opportunities and taking root in Ottawa yourself? Join our talent pool to make yourself discoverable by the hiring managers in our network.  

Invest Ottawa
Invest Ottawa, is Ottawa’s leading economic development agency for fostering the advancement of the region's globally competitive knowledge-based institutions and industries. Invest Ottawa delivers its economic development services through a unique partnership with the City of Ottawa, where the City and Invest Ottawa, through its members set the strategy and manage the programs that move Ottawa’s economy forward. Invest Ottawa is a non-profit, partnership organization that operates on an annual budget that comes from a variety of sources including: municipal, federal and provincial government; membership fees; professional development programs; and private sector contributions.

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