Persistent Systems' technology provides value for the UGV market


Founded just over a decade ago in 2007 by Herbert B. Rubens, CEO, and David Holmer, CTO, Persistent Systems is a leader in mobile ad hoc network (MANET) technology, and the company claims to have the most advanced, scalable and efficient MANET radio in the world, in its MPU5 (Man Portable Unit 5) radio system.

MANET effectively allows users to bring their access points with them, which allows every node — whether UGV, UAV, or something else — to be totally independent, and have the ability to relay for other nodes automatically. This provides a major benefit to users in the field, according to Louis Sutherland, vice president of business development at Persistent Systems.

“The effect is you bring your own backbone with you, and you also have access to the network,” Sutherland says in an interview with AUVSI.

“So, what that translates into, is the more nodes you have out there, the better your network gets. And it provides the seamless, self-forming, self-healing network, that gives us a combat advantage by making our forces informationally aware.”

The MPU5 includes several features such as, but not limited to, an Android Computer, an HD Video Encoder, and a RoIP Radio Interface, which tethers legacy radios into the network. Among its many capabilities, the MPU5 allows users to track the situation, have access to real-time situational awareness, and stay connected anywhere.

According to Sutherland, the MPU5 is largely a result of the internet of things (IoT) movement, which seeks to connect all of the things that are not connected to the internet. Sutherland says that this market is the largest market on the entire planet, and ultimately played a role behind the development of Persistent’s radio product line.

“How do you connect all of the things in the defense side that aren’t connected with wires?” Sutherland says. “And on top of that, they need to be mobile. So, that’s what the focus was on the entire radio product line that we’ve developed up to this point.”

The MPU5 is the latest version in Persistent’s radio product line. The company has never been shy about improving its technology, and the MPU5 has been no different, despite the amount of capabilities and technologies that it was already equipped with.

Last August, Persistent announced the release of a Lower C-Band RF module for its MPU5 radio system. The Lower C-Band frequency is a “requirement of multiple Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) Programs of Record,” according to Persistent.   

The new Lower C-Band module operates in the 4400 to 5000 MHz frequency band; the same frequency band that is used by NATO military forces, homeland Security (DHS, DOJ), and public safety organizations.

Long-range performance and high throughput are achieved thanks to Persistent’s radio module providing “6W of transmit power via its 3×3 MIMO architecture.”

“Radio modules with 6W of transmit power and 3×3 MIMO technology mean that soldiers can operate UGV systems from much greater distances,” said Eric Stern, director of engineering, around the time of the announcement.

“UGV systems are typically utilized to inspect or neutralize explosive devices. Every bit of range and performance that we can offer directly increases soldier safety, and we designed our modules with this in mind.”

Persistent has worked with various UGV platform providers to make sure that the Lower C-Band Module “meets and exceeds all programmatic communication requirements.”

Training and validation of technology

Most of Persistent’s training and validation of its technology is done with its customers, and that training is based upon the customers’ actual real world use cases. Persistent has been a part of several programs, demonstrations and tests — many of which could not be talked about on the record —to validate its technology.

One of the demonstrations that the company could talk about, though, was a demonstration it performed for the FBI and the New York Police Department for ground robotics that the entities were conducting through a joint exercise at New York’s Penn Station.

The FBI and NYPD were conducting active shooter training, and they had a requirement to take a UGV with a camera and identify a target on a subway platform that was three levels deep. They needed the full motion video to appear on the surface, out on the street, at a simulated command post.

Most radios do not transmit through the ground, especially high data connections, so that is where Persistent leveraged its MANET technology. The FBI and NYPD put a relay radio in each of the stairwells. With three relays — one for each of the stairwells — they were able to control the UGV, get the full motion video, and have the whole entire situation up, running full motion video to the street in just a matter of minutes.

“It became a tool in the toolbox for the guys that need to quickly react to that particular use case, where they were trying to identify a simulated active shooter in the New York subway,” Sutherland says.

According to Sutherland, Persistent prides itself on its ability to solve customers’ problems, no matter how complex. An especially enjoyable aspect for Persistent is when it has the opportunity to prove the MPU5’s capabilities for a customer who might not be all the way convinced that the radio can do everything Persistent says it can.

“I literally had one customer tell me one time that they thought our brief was amazing, they just didn’t believe our radio could do what it could do,” Sutherland says. “I gave them some radios to test on their own and they just couldn’t believe it.”

Sutherland adds that that customer even brought a competitor’s system to a tunnel test being performed, and Persistent’s radio outperformed the other vendor’s technology so much that that vendor went home.

Solving problems within the UGV space

Overall, Sutherland believes the MPU5 can be a real problem solver for the UGV space, and he’s already received feedback saying as much.

During AUVSI’s Xponential conference last year in Dallas, Sutherland said he talked to an EOD operator (he believed with the Navy) that was using Persistent’s MPU5 to drive what he believed was an Endeavor product. When Sutherland asked the operator why he liked the radio, the operator told him that the biggest thing he liked was that the radio allowed him to have more standoff distance, especially in comparison to other radios that would require him to get much closer to get the connectivity, which ultimately puts him more at risk if there was a bomb that he had to detonate.

“In their case, they loved our radio just for the safety purpose alone,” Sutherland says.

It’s ultimately responses like this that make Sutherland enjoy his work.

“I love working my job because, it’s not hard to convince someone they need this; they’ve always needed it, they just didn’t know it existed,” Sutherland says.