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Manufacturing insights

Protonex has deployed $34M in military power devices

February 6, 2018
Protonex Technology Corp.
Protonex Technology Corp.
Dave Long, general manager of Protonex Technology Corporation.

Southborough-based power management device maker Protonex Corp. last month announced another $1.6-million order to supply the U.S. military and NATO with its Squad Power Manager Special Operations Kits, a small device optimizing power for various electronics used by soldiers on the battlefield. The device harnesses power from an available battery and can recharge the battery via solar, a vehicle or from scavenged energy sources. Dave Long, general manager of Protonex, told the WBJ about working with the military.

How many squad power management kits are being used by the military?

There are currently more than 5,000 PTX Power Management systems deployed with U.S., NATO and partner nation military forces. These systems enable units to maintain constant operability of their critical electronic equipment by intelligently scavenging and automatically converting power from any source – including solar. We currently support more than 200 different types of electronic equipment and devices used by the military, and are constantly working with end-users to develop solutions for additional and/or new devices.

With this most recent purchase order, what will that number increase to?

The U.S. Department of Defense does not allow us to release the actual number of kits being fielded under the program of record for the U.S. Army. However, we can reveal that our power management kits will be fielded to U.S. Army units under this program through the year 2022. To-date, more than 5,000 PTX Power Management systems have been delivered to U.S. Special Operations Command, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, as well as several NATO and other partner nations internationally.

How many purchase orders have there been for these solutions?

We have fulfilled multiple orders from the U.S. Army Small Unit Power program office, other branches of the U.S. military and U.S. government, and from several allied nations and units.

What has been the total value of the purchase orders for power management kits to-date?

To-date, revenues for our power management products and accessories have exceeded $34 million. Our power management solutions support a wide range of devices, ranging from radios and GPS systems, to life-saving medical gear.

How did the development of Protonex's Power Manager Systems come about?

Protonex's PTX Power Management Solutions began with a research and development contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Labs. The initial requirement was to extend run times for radios and targeting systems used by the U.S.A.F. Based on the operational needs being addressed by our power manager system, it was then tested and deployed in multiple joint technology trials with other branches of the U.S. military. The U.S. Marine Corps, for example, saw a similar need for their forces and provided additional R&D funding to develop additional solutions to their specific expeditionary power requirements. The Marine Corps program was featured in 'Popular Science' magazine a couple of years ago.

The current generation of our Squad Power Manager system being fielded was developed for the U.S. Army to support deployed forces in austere environments. The ability to scavenge power from any source to keep batteries charged and devices powered-up for longer is not simply mission enhancing, but mission critical.

What driving need led to the development of power management devices?

Deployed forces face the challenge of providing power for constant operation of critical electronic equipment. Deployed units have also sought to greatly reduce the number of different batteries carried by troops in the field. Our solution addresses both of those needs, as well as providing the added benefit of reducing their logistics overhead and transportation footprint. As one example from The Office of Naval Research shows with regards to Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams;

"The Power Management Kit (PMK) reduces the weight, size and number of batteries and chargers that warfighters currently need to carry to power their gear. Initial measurements indicate the PMK, with all cables and the SPM in a soft roll case (total weight 9 pounds) replaces up to 50 pounds of specialized chargers and related equipment."

What's it like to deliver a product that could literally mean the difference between life or death on the battlefield?

We design, build and deliver a very special capability to end users that have an extremely difficult mission. Our focus on those end users and the need to be agile and creative fuels the culture at our design and manufacturing headquarters facility in Southborough. We take a special level of pride in our mission to serve U.S., NATO and partner nations with products to benefit the troops in harm's way. PTX power management solutions in fact literally give combat medics the power to deliver hospital-level life-saving treatment to casualties in the most remote locations imaginable. As many of our employees are veterans, we feel a special bond and sense of privilege to be able to work every day in support of our warriors – this is what powers us to come to work every day and solve the problems we're given.

Manufacturers always tell us that they've having trouble recruiting talented workers. Is that the case for Protonex?

We are always looking for talented individuals who are willing to take on the challenge of understanding our customers and delivering what they need – on time, to (or above) spec, and on budget. It has not typically been too difficult for us to find the right talent for our organization, but we are always ready to talk to individuals looking to work for a company that encouraging and nurturing innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and that serves awesome customers!

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Zachary Comeau.