Antennas are the often-overlooked components of many commercial and military communications systems—but not at Draper Laboratory. Late last year, the engineering firm was honored by the Boston Patent Law Association for a patent on a novel single-helix antenna and a second patent on an innovative navigation system. Each year, the Boston Patent Law Association selects the best handful of patents from about 50 New England patents.
Draper’s John Grandfield was named for a patent describing a compact electronically steerable single helix or spiral antenna. The antenna can be directed where needed, integrating several components into a single antenna structure. It provides the performance and effectiveness of a standard antenna about 10 times the size and represents a promising option for electronic devices that must be made smaller, such as cellular telephones for 5G and GPS receivers. Fellow inventors on the patent are Phillip Hulse, Matthew Shea, and Draper engineer Michael P. Abban.
The second Draper patent honored by the Boston Patent Law Association is by J.P. Laine for a navigation system that uses sky glow—light scattered in the sky from streetlights, billboards, and other sources—for navigational guidance. Joining Laine on the patent were Draper engineers Will Whitacre, Robin Dawson, Matthew Sinclair, Charles McPherson, and Stephen P. Smith.
The system works with a camera that captures images of the sky and a search engine that automatically compares the camera’s captured images with a catalog of sky glows. If a match is found, the system outputs the geographic location. The system is usable on land, at sea, and in the air, both for commercial and military applications.