In 2007, when unmanned aerial systems (UAS) were barely getting off the ground, three University of Waterloo engineering graduates recognized the industry’s potential. Dave Kroetsch, Steffen Lindner, and Mike Peasgood envisioned a small, rugged UAS that could be easily deployed and controlled by one person in order to collect video and still imagery from the air.

The applications for such a device were too numerous to count—anyone who could find a use for an aerial image was a potential client, from public safety organizations to military units to power line inspectors.

Fast forward to 2016, and Aeryon Labs has grown from a home-based start-up to a trailblazer in the production of quad-rotor, tablet-controlled aerial vehicles.

Aviation, not Recreation

An image depicting an aerial orthomosaic image of Chile, created with the images and data captured with Aeryon sUAS.
An aerial orthomosaic image of Chile, created with the images and data captured with Aeryon sUAS.

There has recently been a proliferation of recreational UAS hitting retail store shelves, but this hasn’t taken Aeryon’s focus off its target market. Aeryon’s products are built to endure even under adverse or extreme conditions.

“[Aeryon] is focused on professional customers,” explained Andrea Sangster, Aeryon’s senior marketing manager. “The original objective of the founders was to provide a tool for people to do their jobs. The focus of our company is creating these tools for professionals.”

Aeryon’s UAS are currently operating in 35 countries in commercial, military and public safety applications. They have been successfully deployed on a variety of missions, including intelligence gathering, missing person searches, wildlife monitoring, and traffic crash reconstruction.

In Ontario, Aeryon’s customers include the Ontario Provincial Police, York Regional Police, Halton Regional Police Service, the University of Waterloo and York University.

Talent in the Technology Triangle

Creating a top quality product calls for top quality talent. Aeryon’s location in Waterloo, Ontario allows it to draw upon the rich resources of Canada’s Technology Triangle.

“We have access to engineering grads from all Ontario universities, with the skills we need for software development, electronics, radio, and optics,” said Sangster.

Aeryon has hired more than a few of those qualified graduates. At the beginning of 2014, for example, the company employed 50 people; by the end of February 2016, that number had tripled to 150. In fact, in January 2016, Aeryon took over a second building in Waterloo, increasing its footprint to a grand total of 70,000 square feet to accommodate its rapid growth.

Support Networks and a Collaborative Ecosystem

Part of Aeryon’s growth is due to the support it has received from local resources in the Waterloo Region. Chief among those is Communitech, an industry-led regional support centre for tech companies at all stages of development.

“They helped provide us with an advisor to take us to the next stages of growth,” said Sangster. “They have in-house specialists, people to help with PR, etc. Included in the membership fees are monthly peer and networking meetings. They also do recruiting events and university job fairs, so we can participate in those.”

Since it was founded, Aeryon has also benefitted from a number of government grants and investment programs, including FedDev Ontario, the Industrial Research Assistance Program, the Pre-Competitive Advanced Research Network, the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, co-op tax credits and Canada summer job programs.

An image of Communitech’s logo on a blue wall. Communitech, based in Kitchener, Ontario, is an industry-led innovation centre that supports, fosters and celebrates a community of nearly 1,000 tech companies.
Communitech, based in Kitchener, Ontario, is an industry-led innovation centre that supports, fosters and celebrates a community of nearly 1,000 tech companies.

Ontario’s collaborative ecosystem and manufacturing strengths have also been integral to Aeryon’s success. The company assembles its products from a variety of outsourced components, and has relationships with the Canadian divisions of Esri, Microsoft and Panasonic to ensure seamless integration with the third-party software and hardware that Aeryon customers use on a daily basis.

Partners Near and Far

An image depicting the Dejero LIVE+ Transmitters and Cloud Services with Aeryon’s SkyRanger sUAS together.
Dejero LIVE+ Transmitters and Cloud Services With Aeryon’s SkyRanger sUAS

In May 2015, Aeryon announced a technology partnership with a local Waterloo company, Dejero. Dejero makes a device that allows secure live streaming. This partnership will allow Aeryon to enable secure, real-time distribution of its UAS video, so it can be accessed from any Internet-connected or mobile device. “There has been some great collaboration between the two companies over the last few months,” noted Sangster.

Aeryon has benefitted from international partnerships as well. In October 2015, Summit Partners of Boston, Mass., invested $60 million in the Waterloo UAS manufacturer. At the time, Aeryon said the funding would enable it to “accelerate its expansion and deliver additional capabilities to its core market segments.”

Aeryon is rapidly cementing its global reputation as a leader in the unmanned revolution. This Made-in-Ontario innovation is helping professionals all over the world solve critical problems in ways that just weren’t possible only a few years ago. And as the technology evolves and the market opportunities expand, the sky’s the limit for Aeryon Labs.


March 21, 2016

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