In December 2022, two developments headlined several defense publications. The United States Marine Corps awarded a five-million-dollar contract to procure MANET radios for the branch’s tactical vehicles. Later that month, the United States Navy completed a three-week-long exercise named “Digital Horizon,” validating the deployment of connected, intelligent unmanned surface and aerial systems in a maritime area of operations. Though seemingly unrelated, both events had one thing in common: StreamCaster MANET radios from Silvus Technologies.
As it turns out, the Marines selected StreamCaster radios to support Networking On-The-Move (NOTM) initiatives for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) and future Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV). Silvus radios were also crucial to the success of Digital Horizon, linking dispersed unmanned surface and air vehicles back to the Robotics Operations Center (ROC).
What makes Silvus the radio of choice for these complex assignments? We’ll answer that question by breaking down the MIMO techniques powering these radios and covering MANET technology. Then, we’ll look at a recent FLYMOTION integration of Silvus radios and how you can harness their capabilities in your operations.
StreamCasters are mesh network-capable radios using Silvus’ proprietary MN-MIMO waveform. They are available in one of three models:
- StreamCaster Lite 4200: The smallest of the three, the 4200 outputs 1w of power.
- StreamCaster 4200 Enhanced Plus (EP): A larger handheld radio, this model outputs 10w of power.
- StreamCaster 4400 Enhanced: Developed for vehicle, airborne, and command post-based applications, the SC4400 outputs 20w of power.
How do Silvus radios work?
To understand how Silvus radios work, you need to know a couple of abbreviations.
The abbreviation MN-MIMO combines two distinct qualities of Silvus radios. First, they are Mobile-Networked (MN), able to create a mesh communications network without any infrastructure. Second, Silvus radios use a Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna configuration, meaning they use all their antennas to transmit and receive. MIMO functionality is significant for several reasons.
Multiple transmission antennas enable a technique called Eigen Beamforming. Signals emit from each antenna in specific sequences, combining to generate a stronger signal. By manipulating the timing of its signals, a StreamCaster radio can effectively steer the transmission signal to the appropriate receiving party.
In practical terms, Eigen Beamforming effectively doubles — even quadruples — the power output of each radio. The number of antennas, multiplied by the rated output, results in the working output. For example, the StreamCaster Lite, which technically has a power output of 1w, has a working output of 2w. In the case of the StreamCaster 4400, its 20w power output effectively increases to 80w.
Multiple antennas also increase reception quality through redundancy, also known as diversity. As expected, outside interference degrades transmission signals. Multiple receiving antennas can overcome this degradation by combining signals and analyzing them to create a fuller overall reception.
In addition, integrated into Silvus’ proprietary MN-MIMO waveform is Spectrum Dominance. Spectrum Dominance is an expansive suite of Low Probability of Intercept, Low Probability of Detection (LPI/LPD), and Anti-Jamming resiliency capability options. All three enable secure and protected communications in congested and contested environments.
You can learn more about the techniques that make up Silvus MN-MIMO technology here.
A Mobile Ad-hoc Network, or MANET for short, is a type of mesh network and arguably the most important characteristic of Silvus StreamCaster radios. In simple terms, a MANET system is a group of connected radios that form a network to transmit information. Each radio in the system serves as a transmitter, relay, and receiver. These networks are also decentralized and self-organized, hence the term Ad-hoc. In other words, there is no central hub administrating traffic. If a radio is added or dropped, the network will instantly reorganize itself to optimize information flow.
With this adaptive, efficient network, MANET radios like the StreamCaster can send and receive high-fidelity voice, video, and other IP data without the need for infrastructure.
Applications: FLYMOTION Ridgeback
The use of StreamCaster MANET radios aboard unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) in Digital Horizon mirrors an integration capability developed by FLYMOTION several years ago. Recognizing the potential of MANET radios in unmanned systems, FLYMOTION created Ridgeback. Ridgeback is a communication payload for Spot by Boston Dynamics that replaces the OEM Wi-Fi connection with a pair of MANET radios.
The premise of Ridgeback is simple: with one radio plugged into the controller and another connected to the robot, operators can control movement and view the feed. Because this configuration also creates a mesh network, any personnel with access to a MANET radio can also view feeds from Spot.
In short, Ridgeback provides two major benefits. For one, it provides an encrypted transmission stronger than the standard link. Secondly, it enables the democratization of information to other team members.
When the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office procured a Spot unit from FLYMOTION, they also requested a Ridgeback payload with Silvus MANET radios to integrate with the rest of their communication system. With our Silvus-powered Ridgeback, the agency’s EOD team can confidently operate Spot in challenging or complex RF environments, like concrete buildings or underground tunnels, from a safe distance.
As the use of unmanned systems increases, so will the need for a standardized, capable communication infrastructure. Fortunately, for the reasons previously mentioned and more, Silvus StreamCaster radios exceed the performance requirements of complex and data-intensive missions. If you want to learn more about MANET radios or custom integrations, please contact a FLYMOTION representative or visit our website.