The technologies NASA develops don’t just blast off into space. They also improve our lives here on Earth. Life-saving search-and-rescue tools, implantable medical devices, advances in commercial aircraft safety, increased accuracy in weather forecasting, and the miniature cameras in our cellphones are just some of the examples of NASA-developed technology used in products today.
This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. If you are interested in licensing the technologies described here, use the contact information provided. To learn about more available technologies, visit the NASA Technology Transfer Portal at http://technology.nasa.gov .
Portable Mounting Platform for Auto-Tracking Antenna
Armstrong Flight Research Center designed a continuously rotating antenna-mounting platform that is small and lightweight enough that one person can carry it, yet it can accommodate nearly 60 pounds of antennas, transmitters, and receivers in any combination. Powered by 120 VAC, the platform can move all of the antennas simultaneously in continuous rotation in azimuth and vertical ±180°, effectively tracking a line-of-sight object up to 20 miles away. The ability to track line-of-sight objects with multiple RF sources makes this technology ideal for use with small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or for communicating with marine ships in line-of-sight, tracking satellites in non-geosynchronous orbit, and other applications.
Contact: Armstrong Flight Research Center
Amorphous Surface Robots
Langley Research Center has developed multiple ways for amorphous robots to autonomously move across a surface without needing conventional wheels or legs. These robots include a Bladder Bot that uses a fluid-filled bladder with circulating high-viscosity fluid; an Inchworm Robot with a tube-like design that moves the way an inchworm moves; an Electromagnetic Sphere Robot made of spheres inside a fluid-filled flexible bladder; and a Polymer Cell Robot that consists of polymeric cells encapsulated in a larger flexible outer shell. The cells either swell or contract, causing the center of gravity to change, and thus the object rolls accordingly.
Contact: Langley Research Center
Real-Time, High-Frequency Electrocardiograph Analysis
NASA physicians working with astronauts at Johnson Space Center developed a method of processing and displaying existing electrocardiograph (ECG) data that enhances the ability of the diagnostician to identify those patients with myocardial ischemia and other cardiac pathology earlier and more accurately than conventional ECG techniques. As the cardiac electrical data are received in real time from a patient and manipulated by algorithms to determine various useful aspects of the ECG signal, the data are displayed and stored in a useful form. The computer displays various permutations of reduced amplitude zones and peakedness that increase the rapidity and accuracy of cardiac diagnoses.