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NEWS | March 27, 2020

NSWC Dahlgren Division Junior Scientists, Engineers Awarded Patent for UAV Sensor Innovation

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

DAHLGREN, Va. – The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded a patent to Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) junior scientists and engineers for a modular sensor platform they invented for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), NSWCDD officials announced March 27.

The UAV sensor platform – known as SCAPEGOAT (Senses CBR Agents Pre-Engagement and Goes Over All Terrain) – integrates specialized sensors for chemical, biological, and radiological (CBR) detection and collection.

The invention – earning U.S. patent 10,556,707 for NSWCDD in February 2020 – was developed through the NSWCDD Sly Fox Workforce Development Program over a six month period in 2017.

“Patents provide a tangible representation of the innovation of our scientists and engineers,” said NSWCDD Chief Technology Officer Kate Jones. “In this case, we have an ideal scenario, where our junior scientists and engineers, through a workforce development program sponsored by internal Naval Innovative Science and Engineering funds, have developed cutting-edge technology and generated a patent.” 

It was early in the design phase when the Sly Fox Mission 21 team – Joshua Taylor, Jonathan Crook, John Gawalt, Jordan Lieberman, Jessica Hildebrand, Charles Miller, and Troy Newhart – integrated existing CBR detection technology into the platform to avoid major modifications of CBR sensors and unmanned aerial system (UAS) platforms that involve payload weight limitations.

Their decision led to an innovative system design featuring three interchangeable mission modules - one each for the chemical, biological, and radiological detection capabilities.

“We recognize that patents are a key feeder to our innovation ecosystem,” said Jones. ” "Working with our partnership intermediaries, we have an excellent opportunity for licensing technologies such as these."

Partnership intermediaries market new inventions on behalf of the Department of Defense to private industry for technology licensing and transfer in addition to joint research and development agreements.

"The number of potential commercial and military partnerships for a device like is large," said Sean Patten, a senior technology manager at TechLink, a partnership intermediary for NSWCDD, in the company's news release on the SCAPEGOAT patent. "And at the end of the day, who doesn't appreciate a simple, effective device that can be easily transferred across platforms and serves to warn and protect our warfighters?"

What’s more, the Mission 21 team designed the system to accommodate additional sensors. 

“This invention directly addresses a real warfighter need for low cost, flexible CBR early warning technologies,” said Kevin Cogley, head of the NSWCDD’s CBR Detection Branch. “While other organizations and industry have demonstrated similar capabilities, SCAPEGOAT’s low cost and ability to operate with multiple UAV platforms and CBR sensors is the unique quality that sets it apart from other solutions.”

The CBR detection modules are compatible with sensors currently deployed to warfighters. The biological collection unit – a custom NSWCDD-designed module compatible with currently fielded filter media – uses a 12-volt fan to pull air through the system. The invention also features modules for communications, a global positioning system, camera, and power. 

“Over the past year, the Sly Fox Program has evolved and taken on the responsibility to adapt its workforce development of the classic systems engineering approach to the robust digital transformation environment,” said William Walsh, NSWCDD Sly Fox Program director.  “The SCAPEGOAT team’s technical rigor and cohesion really helped set the stage to empower the dynamic direction of our current missions. Mission 21 truly set a high standard. Sly Fox teams must now take the time to consider how their technical product can and will be transitioned for further development and proven for real tactical and operational Navy applications, ultimately providing critical support to the warfighter.”

The benefit of transitioning technical, project management and leadership knowledge to junior engineers and scientists across organizations has positively impacted Sly Fox members and their careers since the first Sly Fox mission was launched in 2002. The inaugural team successfully developed the Passive Anti-Ship Missile Detection System within the designated six-month timeframe, confirming that the Sly Fox Program was an excellent way to develop leadership skills for young engineers and scientists. Sly Fox teams have applied their talents to known technology gaps and efforts ranging from directed energy and radar systems to unmanned systems and cyber warfare.

“This shows the value of Intellectual Property training,” said Lorraine Harting, NSWCDD Patent Program manager, regarding the SCAPEGOAT patent. “This is the second patent awarded to Sly Fox and the last two missions have already submitted invention disclosures for prosecution. We hope these scientists and engineers will take this knowledge back to their home branches and encourage others to do the same.”

The NSWCDD Office of Counsel is also available to impart that patent knowledge via training sessions to groups and individuals throughout the command. “Technical departments and program offices should take advantage of this training opportunity,” said Harting.  

Meanwhile, the NSWCDD Chief Technology Office, which manages the Sly Fox Program, has made it mandatory for participants to complete the command’s patent training course. The requirement will help ensure that patents earned by Sly Fox missions become a routine and regular part of the command’s technology transition and workforce development initiatives.