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“The Future of Threat Detection” an Interview with Plymouth Rock Technologies CEO Dana Wheeler

Dana Wheeler

Director, President and CEO

Plymouth Rock Technologies
(CSE: PRT) (OTC: PLRTF) (Frankfurt: 4XA WKN# A2N8RH)

Interview conducted by:

Bud Wayne, Editorial Executive

CEOCFO Magazine

Published – October 26, 2020

CEOCFO: Mr. Wheeler, you are a recognized industry veteran with over 35 years’ experience in RF, Microwave and Millimeter-wave technologies. As Co-founder, what lead to the founding of Plymouth Rock Technologies, and would you give us a brief history?

Mr. Wheeler: We founded a company in 2009 called Radio Physics Solutions out of the UK. It is still operating and is privately funded. At that time we teamed with a UK university called Manchester Metropolitan University that had an Imaging and Sensing group doing threat detection. The UK Home Office was providing them grant funding and they had the Met Police that really needed a hand-held threat detection radar device for detecting threats on people such as handguns, knives and explosives. We got to know them well and formed a partnership, providing them with R&D funds. Dr. Nick Bowring and Dr. Stuart Harmer were instrumental in working with us. We co-developed a long-range standoff threat detection radar that we called MiRTLE. Our team at Radio Physics got involved; we were based in both the UK and US and we had labs in close proximity to the university. We set up a 100% wholly owned subsidiary here in the Boston area. Our respective teams got to know each other really well and we co-developed a great product. We brought it into the states and got it in the hands of Army Special Operations. They really liked what they saw, but we needed more development. However, as happens with many small businesses, the funding was very sporadic.

We had two core technologies at Radio Physics, one was a millimeter-wave high-speed communications link that we were producing for high-speed trading routes in New York City and Chicago. We split the company up and took that product, and RPS continued to develop the MiRTLE radar. However, I kept my relationship with the Manchester scientists and that is how we moved forward. We started Plymouth Rock in 2016 and got the old team back. We were not funded, we were brainstorming as to how we could develop a superior system for detecting threats on people, how we could do other types of threat detection using multiple sensors for search and rescue.

In early 2018 we met a group of investors in Canada that had invested in another threat detection company called Patriot One. They approached us and said they had a publicly traded shell set up in Vancouver. They had raised a few million dollars US and they asked if we would be interested in coming aboard. Therefore, in late 2018 we did a reverse merger with the Canadian group, we renamed their company to Plymouth Rock Technologies Canada. We relisted on the CSE and US OTCQB, as they were trading on CSE in Canada and OTCQB here in the states. We started as a Delaware corporation, doing business in Plymouth Massachusetts and did the reverse merger with the Vancouver group. Plymouth Rock Technologies then became a 100% wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian entity. We have an office in Vancouver where our corporate secretary provides corporate administration and investment relations, our operations team is in Plymouth and we have our R&D labs in the UK. PRT has been going at it now for almost two years. We brought the old team back; Dr. Stuart Harmer is on our Advisory board and he is one of the founders along with Carl Cagliarini and David Russell. We brought the Manchester team back in the fold so we can continue our product development. That is how we got together.

CEOCFO: The first thing you see on your website is, “The Future of Threat Detection.” Why is that important for you?

Mr. Wheeler: If you look at some of the people on our board, particularly Douglas Smith (former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security) who has pointed out that there are many holes in the entire security screening process. We believed that with the technologies we were developing were going to fill some of those holes. We decided not to go after the body scanner markets like the L3 ProVision machine that you step into. There were other companies that were already developing products for full body scanning and we knew it would be difficult for a small start-up to get our through TSA testing and timelines. We decided to concentrate on sensors and imaging techniques that can be of use outside of that nucleus of the security perimeter. We call it the swiss cheese effect because there are a lot of holes in that security perimeter. For example, you come into the airport and park your car, not much security present, you are walking into the departure lounge to check-in your baggage but there is really very little security. There may be some security cameras but no real threat detection.

In most cases we are not developing the technology itself, we are using technologies for different applications like threat detection. For example, automotive radar came on the market in high end cars in the early 2000s but today every car that comes off the production line has some sort of automotive collision avoidance and side/rear object detection which was developed by a few innovative companies in the Boston area back in the 1990’s. We worked with Daimler-Benz to get it on the S-Class Mercedes. That is a technology that is in mass volume production today that we have utilized for different applications, which are threat detection and search and rescue.

CEOCFO: Do you design, develop and patent products are do most of your products come to you through acquisitions? What is your model there?

Mr. Wheeler: We do have some patents but that is not our prime objective. We are commercialization guys. We take technology that we know very well, that we grew up in the industry with and we utilize that technology for different applications. In the case of threat detection and search and rescue, we are using our collective knowledge of these technologies and you have to have an academic part of that. That is why we work with academia because they can analyze the software, the algorithms, the physics and mathematics that actually prove what we are doing before we actually go and do it. We have an academic team that will invent and patent and write papers and we take those ideas and turn them into real products.

CEOCFO: You are providing sensor systems and associated platforms, with MiRIAD, X1 (Unmanned Aircraft System), XV (vertical takeoff and landing USA), SS1 (3D imaging Shoe Scanner). Would you tell us about them and what their applications are?

Mr. Wheeler: When we started the company, we were sensor oriented so one of the sensors that we first came out with was technology that was best known to us. My history goes way back as a radar guy using higher frequencies in the microwave and millimeter wave spectrum. The MIRIAD was the first sensor we came out with because it was technology we knew very well. MiRIAD can be either used as a radar that actually sends a signal out, bounces off a person and then the reflection comes back and we analyze those reflections to see if it is just a person standing there with no threats or they have a bomb, weapon, or some threat under their clothing. That was the easiest one for us to tackle first because we knew a lot about the technology. You can use that in two modes, you can use it in a radar active mode where we actually transmit a signal or you can use it in passive mode. On passive mode every person has an emissivity of electromagnetic spectrum and we can pick that up passively just by listening with a receiver. We have two different types of these sensors for two different types of applications. The MiRIAD is a very small antenna radiometric system that we can sense whether people have explosives or weapons on their body at a distance.

CEOCFO: Would that be used in Homeland Security or Military?

Mr. Wheeler: Actually both. There is a commercial application for the MiRIAD and it is called non-destructive testing. When we came out with the first idea of doing all these sensors, and our relationship with the academia, we said that we were going to build a drone called the X1 and it is going to be one of the best drones in its class. It is not going to be a military type drone with weaponry but it is going to have military environment specs. This drone is going to fly in all weather, it is going to withstand high winds, and other tough environmental conditions. Therefore, we teamed with a small drone manufacturer in the UK and we built a custom designed drone.

We can fly this under bridges, look for corrosion on bridge trusses. We can fly it over natural gas and oil pipelines and look for corrosion on pipelines from a non-destructive testing standpoint. It is expensive to do that if you have a man-lift and x-ray machines. That was our first thought. However, it did not take us long to figure out that this drone was very special. We found this out by going to a lot of these security conferences like the International Security Conference, at the Javits Center. We were there last year and got a big crowd. We were so popular at that show, we had NYPD. We had the fire department of New York looking for search and rescue drones that would actually hold up in all weather. NYPD was looking for search and rescue. We had Google there, they want drones for infrastructure protection and data protection. We started to realize quickly that we should not just be selling sensors to drone manufacturers, we should be selling drones with our sensors on them. That is when our business plan changed. We have been doing this for eighteen months now. We have the MiRIAD Sensor working, we are buying other commercially available sensors such as forward-looking infra-red cameras, ultrasonic sensors, 4K video cameras etc. and most importantly, we are building and designing our own drones.

CEOCFO: Do you make your own drones and still sell the sensors?

Mr. Wheeler: Absolutely. If you were going to buy a drone tomorrow, you would have a menu that asks what you want on your drone. Do you just want a video camera so you can do video surveillance or do you want forward-looking infra-red so you can measure heat contrast? Think of a child lost in the woods. Instead of bringing a helicopter up which costs a lot of money, you can fly your drone and track the heat contrast. We have our sensors and now we have the drones. That is the X1. Just picture a drone that has multiple sensor modalities, even ultrasonic sensors, ground-penetrating radar and x-ray. We have talked with companies that have all these types of sensors that are small enough and light enough to mount to the drone.

CEOCFO: Where did the 3D shoe scanning come from?

Mr. Wheeler: The 3D scanning came from the original group at Manchester. When we were there doing the stand-off radar and working other related R&D projects with them, they had a shoe scanner on the bench that they were creating 3D images using millimeter wave and microwave frequencies. Once we started Plymouth Rock, we went back to that team of scientists and acquired the IP from Manchester Metropolitan University. They assigned all the IP over to Plymouth Rock last year. We then got it working and got the patent which was finally granted in the UK, just a few months ago. We also did another patent. We filed this patent in the United States last November and did a fast track on this so we should have that awarded hopefully in the next few months.

CEOCFO: What would the 3D imaging be used for?

Mr. Wheeler: Certainly, at airports. DHS right now has a program. There is a mandate by DHS and the EU that all airports will be equipped with automated shoe scanning by 2024. Our thoughts are as follows; instead of taking your shoes off you will stand on a pad or in a body scanner and while you are getting your body scanned, your shoes are being scanned also. We have a lot of interest from some of the big government Prime Contractors. They are looking at us in regards to integrating with their body scanners. Through this whole process, we found people who want to use them for border patrol as there are thousands of people coming across our borders everyday especially our southern borders to Mexico that work in the states and go back and forth. Border patrol would love to have shoe scanning. We also have a company that provides metal detectors for prisons and correctional institutes, shoe scanning would circumvent a large amount of contraband entering these facilities.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your WI-TI (Wireless Threat Indication) and CODA1 (Cognitive Object Detection Apparatus)?

Mr. Wheeler: The WI-TI, I can’t go too deep on this as we are doing an invention report on that and filing a patent. However, for people in unstructured crowds, a mall for example, there is wireless infrastructure (Wi-Fi). We came up with a method of measuring the scattering of Wi-Fi signals off people and measuring the reflections. These reflections are much different if you have a bomb or threat item. We are just measuring reflections off people in unstructured crowds and then using video cues to track them if they have a threat. We are applying for a patent on that; we call it WI-TI for Wireless Threat Indication.

The CODA1 concept has been around for a long time, but not in that name. It is radar that transmits a signal, and bounces off a person’s body. We measure the return signal and with AI and smart algorithms can determine with high probability that a threat is present. Basically, it is a stand-off bomb detector and we can see hand guns as well as knives.

CEOCFO: Is that the R3 Technologies?

Mr. Wheeler: Yes, it is, but we are calling the product CODA1. We are working on a commercialization plan of their existing system and then we are co-developing another system at a much longer stand-off range. For military use the main focus is forward operating base (FOB) checkpoints to be able to scan people as far out as they can before they get into the checkpoint or the base. These guys (R3) have a lot of experience and we happen to have know them throughout all the years that they have been developing this product.

CEOCFO: Where are your products built; in the US or abroad and why is that important?

Mr. Wheeler: We are doing R&D in the UK and we are doing commercialization and production in the US.

CEOCFO: On September 30th Plymouth Rock Technologies announced the close of the 1st Tranche of Private Placement. Where are you with founding today?

Mr. Wheeler: That was the first round of a second private placement. When we began the company we had a couple million dollars that was raised and that really paid for all of our development to date. We did two private placements, one at the beginning of COVID, really to keep the lights on and development going. We started one just recently. We have not raised a lot of money, but now we are at the inflection point of where we are going into commercialization. We are going to need a good amount of cash to be able to buy materials, get the production line started and get our ISO certification, which is a quality standard that we have to achieve to work with military and government agencies. We are at the point now where we are really going to grow the company. We have completed initial development and have the products in place. Now we have to build them. We have some customers that are very interested as I just described. We are going to go through different types of financing in the next couple of months but this last round was from our current shareholders and friends and family.

CEOCFO: Is reaching potential investors or partnerships important to you today and if so how are you reaching out?

Mr. Wheeler: It is a very important aspect. We need cash to keep going. We have a network of investors in Canada and the US that has got us to where we are today. We have investors and fundraisers close to me here in Plymouth so we are working and talking with the Boston and New York investment community. We have also established a network of investment Bankers and strategic investors over the last couple of years, and actually throughout our careers, of people that know us and know people that like to be in this space. We believe that we are grossly undervalued right now.

CEOCFO: In closing, for potential customers, why is Plymouth Rock Technologies important today, what sets you apart from the competition and for investors, why have confidence?

Mr. Wheeler: We believe that the technology we are using is underutilized for security applications right now. We are opening up a whole new technology applications space by using it for threat detection and search and rescue. We are doing things that really no one else is doing. One thing I will add, where I think we have a big advantage, is we are a small company. I have worked for Lockheed Martin and other large companies, the decision are made very slowly. Manufacturing and designing is very slow. We can push designs through in weeks when it takes big companies months or even years. We have an advisor to our Board, Jason Ellwood, who has retired from Raytheon after 37 years. He has a great wealth of operations experience. He knows how to streamline the manufacturing process and understands how small business can play a major role in technology development.

As far as the confidence, we have been doing this a long time. I graduated in 1981 in the Boston area and went to work for a company called M/A-Com, who was very well-known in those years in the microwave business. PRT personnel have been doing this a long, long time. We know the supplier base, we know the customers base and we know who uses what. We are very good at the marketing side also because we know what we have developed and the applications it can be used for. Our confidence is very high and we are very passionate too. We have a great mix of personal as far as academic, manufacturing and engineering.

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“PRT personnel have been doing this a long, long time. We know the supplier base, we know the customers base and we know who uses what. We are very good at the marketing side also because we know what we have developed and the applications it can be used for. Our confidence is very high and we are very passionate too. We have a great mix of personal as far as academic, manufacturing and engineering.” Dana Wheeler