CAMBRIDGE, MA—U.S. patents are a rare commodity. Only about 630,000 patent applications are filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office every year. Even fewer will ever become granted patents. At Draper, two patents recently earned honors at the Boston Patent Law Association’s annual review of the best patents in New England in 2018. Of the 50 nominees, 12 were selected as Honorees and four as Featured Honorees.
Draper’s John Grandfield was named among the four Featured Honorees for a compact electronically steerable single helix or spiral antenna. Designing a directional antenna that can reorient itself quickly and, as a result, boost its accuracy and reliability, has been an ongoing focus for engineers. Grandfield’s breakthrough is a design that integrates several components into a single antenna, effectively reducing the size by a factor of 10 or more, a promising development for companies that build wireless devices, such as mobile phones, GPS receivers and radars, and for those anticipating future 5G cellular systems.
Joining Grandfield as fellow inventors on the patent were Phillip Hulse, Matthew Shea and Draper engineer Michael P. Abban.
In addition to Grandfield’s honor, the BPLA recognized Draper for a patent in navigation. J.P. Laine was recognized for a navigation system that uses sky glow, that is, scattered light in the sky, such as light from streetlights, billboards or airports that is reflected by atmospheric particulates. As an upward-looking camera captures an image of the sky, a search engine automatically searches a catalog of sky glows. If a match is found, the system outputs the geographic location. The invention takes advantage of the very phenomenon that hinders or incapacitates conventional celestial navigation, and may be used on land, at sea and in the air, in both civilian and military applications.
Joining Laine as fellow inventors on the patent were Draper engineers Will Whitacre, Robin Dawson, Matthew Sinclair, Charles McPherson and Stephen P. Smith.
The Boston Patent Law Association, established in 1924, is one of this country’s oldest associations of intellectual property lawyers and professionals. The BPLA’s Invented Here! award highlights inventions made by New England inventors or New England companies.