Boston Dynamics’ Spot is rapidly adopting a critical role in emergency response and front line operational deployments. That should not come as a surprise. Spot’s mobility and payload options make it the optimal robotics platform for SWAT, Tactical, CBRNe, EOD operations, and beyond. More importantly, its advanced technology prepares operators to face sophisticated and evolving threats.
In matters of connecting to the Spot unit, the standard control link is Wi-Fi. Although this is great for testing in the lab, our clients and the industry alike required a more robust and mission-ready control link.
Recognizing the critical nature of the first responder mission set, the engineers at FLYMOTION devised a new plan to better support the agencies and organizations utilizing this cutting edge robotics platform. We set out to design from the ground up and build a more robust connectivity solution that integrates directly to the robot itself.
Our Ridgeback system consists of a custom-built payload that incorporates an advanced mesh network radio system standard for government and defense operators. These highly-capable mesh radio networks can transmit voice, video, and data. Pairing the mesh radio’s exceptional performance with Spot turns an already-impressive robot into a tool fit for a multitude of real-world operations. Ridgeback is designed to be fully compatible with devices such as Persistent Systems’ MPU5 radio, Silvus Streamcaster series radios, and others that can integrate within a Mobile Ad Hoc Networking (MANET) system.
How is this achieved? By improving four facets of Spot: its range, signal strength, encryption, and control interface.
Our team has easily controlled Spot with a Ridgeback up to 1200m (about three-quarters of a mile) under line-of-sight conditions.
Furthermore, the radios can build a scalable mesh network, with radios acting as repeater nodes—more radios embedded in the chain equal better range and performance. Repeater radios can deploy on personnel, vehicles, drones, and other robotics. Spot can also deploy a radio on its own. When the robot reaches the edge of its range, the Spot operator grabs the spare mesh radio on its back and deploys it. Spot then goes on its way, ensuring that it’s still within range.
Robotic units like Spot are designed to keep humans out of harm’s way. However, there is still an inherent danger if they limit the distance between the operators on the ground and nearby threats. The extended control radius of Ridgeback means responders stay clear of hazards while completing their mission objectives.
Like operating range, strong signal strength is necessary for safe and effective operations. Ridgeback provides that. The FLYMOTION team has seen exceptional signal strength performance from Ridgeback.
While onboard a naval vessel, the FLYMOTION team easily controlled Spot with Ridgeback deep into the ship’s multiple decks from the bridge. Using a repeater node mounted to a vehicle on the dock, the team experienced no signal interference. It’s worth noting that this naval vessel is made of steel. In other words, the RF signal interference of this environment was extremely high. Where the Wi-Fi connection would have failed, Ridgeback kept operators in control.
Finally, Ridgeback provides users flexibility in their control interfaces. Instead of using the proprietary controllers, you can use any Android mobile device of your choice. Ridgeback also enables you to use a Bluetooth controller, like an Xbox or PlayStation style controller.
All of this is to optimize Spot for the user’s workflow. Such an integration guarantees the efficient and effective use of the platform.
Apart from the advantages already discussed, Ridgeback provides:
Ridgeback is fully integrated into the payload ports on top of the Spot robot. By utilizing the power and networking capabilities of the robot, Ridgeback does not require any external data cables or batteries to be operational.
As mentioned earlier, Ridgeback is a custom solution for Spot. The precise specifications ensure that Ridgeback securely mounts to the rails on the back of Spot.
In short, Ridgeback by FLYMOTION elevates the capabilities of Spot to meet the stringent demands of defense operators and first responders. The native integration of a mesh radio elevates Spot’s operational capabilities to meet the demands of real-world operations. To put it briefly, Ridgeback provides the reliability you need to achieve mission success.