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4DSP Licenses NASA's High-Speed Fiber Optic Sensing System

The Innovative Partnerships Office at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center (link opens new browser window) has licensed its lightweight, compact, ultra-efficient fiber optic sensor system to the Austin, TX-based company, 4DSP (link opens new browser window). By leveraging NASA’s fiber optics and high-speed algorithms, which are capable of interrogating thousands of sensors at the unprecedented refresh rate of 100 samples per second, 4DSP will bring to market a state-of-the-art turnkey fiber optic system. This breakthrough fiber optic technology can be used to monitor stress in aircraft, automobiles, bridges, pipelines, wind turbines, and medical catheters, to name just a few applications.

Fuentek's Role

Fuentek played an integral role in the intellectual property (IP) management for Dryden’s technology. We assessed the suite of technologies and recommended that NASA proceed with a marketing campaign to help reach a wide range of potential partners. Then, leveraging the research conducted during the assessment, Fuentek assembled a vetted list of high-potential industry prospects and prepared a Web page to convey the benefits and applications of the technology to potential licensees. Fuentek’s marketing campaign involved reaching out to potential licensees via e-mail and phone. We also used our blog to raise awareness of the technology. We followed up on leads by providing additional information about the technology to interested prospects. Finally, Fuentek collaborated with NASA on qualifying and guiding prospects through the licensing process.

Benefits of Technology Transfer

  • NASA’s collaboration with 4DSP enabled both partners to develop the innovation more rapidly, resulting in a lighter, more compact product with lower power requirements that benefits both the space program and the U.S. economy.
  • The commercialization of NASA’s fiber optic sensor system will enable a large number of U.S. industries to incorporate high-speed fiber optics into their operations.
  • The partnership with NASA Dryden has allowed 4DSP to design new board level products with superior processing speeds for a broad array of time frequency analysis applications. This increased real-time processing speed has found its way into fields outside of aerospace fiber optic sensing (e.g., telecommunications, software-defined radio, and radar).
  • NASA’s technology has the potential to impact a wide range of industries, including renewable wind energy, civil structures, automotive, transportation and rail, marine, oil and gas, power, seismology, mining, and more.

On the Record

"The licensing of this NASA invention to 4DSP represents a major breakthrough and opens the door to widespread application of this remarkable sensing technology. The applications of the technology are limitless and have the potential to revolutionize structural design, testing, in-situ structural health monitoring, aeroelastic feedback control, and end-of-life cycle decision making, as well as many others yet to be discovered."
— W. Lance Richards, Ph.D. Aerospace Research Manager, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

“Some elements of the fiber optic system technology that Dryden has developed deliver about a twenty-fold improvement over what is currently available in the marketplace. In addition, the partnership with NASA Dryden has helped our company widen its product offerings. This benefits industry by providing cutting-edge technologies and also makes 4DSP a stronger company.”
— Pierrick Vulliez, President, 4DSP, LLC

About 4DSP

4DSP, LLC (link opens new browser window), based in Austin, TX with offices in the Netherlands, develops and manufactures off-the-shelf signal acquisition and image processing systems. The company specializes in high-speed and parallel reconfigurable solutions.

Technology Origins

This innovation initially was developed for use in NASA’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to provide accurate, real-time, in-flight determination of the shape of their highly flexible and highly deformable wings. One of the key limitations of fiber optics has historically been the refresh rate—information did not travel down the fiber quickly enough to suit most commercial purposes. Allen Parker, Aerospace Engineer at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, developed a mathematical algorithm that enabled high-speed calculations of a variety of critical parameters, including shape, stress, temperature, pressure, strength, and operational load. Once Dryden achieved real-time processing speeds with the fiber optics, the inventors recognized that the high-speed fiber optic sensing system held significant commercialization potential.

The Transfer Process

4DSP and Dryden began to collaborate on fiber optics in 2007 when the Dryden innovators recognized that 4DSP’s off-the-shelf products were well-suited to incorporate fiber optics. Pierrick Vulliez’s team at 4DSP delivered a signal processing system to Dryden so that it could be outfitted with fiber optics. Dryden and 4DSP teamed up to make the system even more compact and lightweight, and this informal partnership led to a formal licensing agreement in 2011. The licensing process was managed by Dryden’s Innovative Partnerships Office. 4DSP is currently developing a turnkey state-of-the-art acquisition and processing platform that incorporates the technology.

Gearing up for Commercialization

In 2012, 4DSP plans to commercialize multiple products derived from Dryden’s fiber optic sensing system. In the meantime, they have two primary goals: develop an even more compact and lightweight product and drive down the end cost for industry clients. 4DSP caters primarily to aerospace and defense contractors, and they expect these companies will be their first customers. However, the technology has applications among a variety of industries that would benefit from real-time strain monitoring, including civil engineering, transportation, oil and gas, renewable energy, and medicine. 4DSP is now positioned to become an industry leader in cutting-edge fiber optic sensing technology.

For More Information

To learn more about this technology transfer success, contact us via this Web site or by calling Fuentek at (919) 249-0327.


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