Next generation automatically deployed radio relay

Wireless, non line-of-sight, high-bandwidth deployable relay

Communications Electronics

Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) are radio controlled and typically limited to line-of-sight operation. This means that a UGV cannot travel behind obstacles or go certain distances in relation to the operator. There are many instances where a UGV could benefit from non line-of-sight operations, for example, to investigate a hazardous structure or unreachable terrain. Radio relays are devices that can relay radio signals around obstacles and terrain. A UGV could benefit from a UGV-mounted device that could automatically deploy a radio relay when the radio signal between the UGV and the operator dropped in strength. Such a device would allow the UGV to go where it couldn’t have previously gone.

This technology is a deployable radio relay that uses an innovative antenna mechanism to aid in maintaining a radio signal between a mobile platform, such as a UGV, and a controller. A deployer device mounted on a mobile platform houses the relay and automatically ejects the relay when the radio signal between the mobile platform and the controller drops in strength. The relay’s antenna is attached through a rotating mechanism that allows the relay to raise and hold the antenna in an upward position no matter how the relay lands. Design features may be added to the system, such as weights or a specific housing shape, to encourage a preferred resting orientation for best signal quality. Adding crossbars to the antenna provides additional stability to the structure, and creates a mounting point for sensors that can be controlled by a remote user. Example sensors include: lights that can be turned on and off; cameras that can stream video; and environmental sensors that can monitor an area for hazardous chemicals and send alerts. A GPS system may also be added to the relay to tell the remote user of the relay’s location. Because of the relay’s potential for use in extreme environments, it is designed to withstand rough deployments.

Prototype radio relays have been successfully tested in an operational environment on a UGV. Relays with LED lights and cameras have been built and tested. The networking protocols have been further qualified through tests and demonstrations.

This technology is related to US patents 8,103,212 and 8,219,023.

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