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World IP Day: QinetiQ’s unique intellectual property, through the ages


This week, we are sharing a series of blogs and content to celebrate Intellectual Property (IP) in the lead up to World IP Day on 26th April.

For more information on what IP is and how it can benefit businesses, take a look at our first blog here.

QinetiQ has a rich heritage and is well-known for being a leader in innovation and technology over the decades. From its roots in the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) to the current day as a mission-led innovation partner for defence, security and technology firms; QinetiQ and its thousands of engineers, scientists and world-leading researchers are constantly moving forward and testing the boundaries of what might be possible.

Here is a small selection of some of the amazing inventions and patents we have played a hand in over time.

Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD)

Perhaps the best well known example of revenue derived from a QinetiQ patent is the STN (Super Twisted Nematic) liquid crystal device which was developed at UK Ministry of Defence laboratories (a forerunner of QinetiQ) and patented in 1982. Granted as UK patent GB2123163, it was subsequently licenced by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to the World’s liquid crystal display manufacturers. It yielded patent royalties of over one hundred million pounds, believed to be the largest return for any MoD patent in history.

Satellite Navigation

IP has also been instrumental in the success of QinetiQ’s recent work in the field of positioning, navigation and timing systems (PNT) and particularly satellite navigation. New satnav systems have prompted the need for new ways to process the signals that they generate, and QinetiQ has been a leader in devising systems and processes that are both power efficient and effective at extracting the maximum information from the signals. Also to determine which can be validated as genuine and to get secure navigation signals to where they are needed. Amongst the many innovations that have been developed in this field include the following patents for technology designed by QinetiQ experts, Malcolm Macleod and Nigel Davies:

  • A new way to demodulate navigation signals from the Galileo satnav system
  • A system for identifying road vehicles that may be involved in disrupting satellite navigation signals for nefarious purposes
  • A satnav receiver that is adapted to detect interference, such as jamming present on part of a transmitted satnav signal, and to reject it in favour of other, more reliable parts of the signal

Read more on QinetiQ’s satellite navigation technologies here.

Hybrid Electric Drive

Electric propulsion is becoming more widespread within civilian passenger vehicles, but uptake of the technology has been slow within the defence sector. However, innovative packaging solutions and improvements in traction motor performance have combined to enable hybrid electric drive to be adopted within military platforms, thereby providing the same fundamental efficiency benefits already enjoyed by commercial vehicles. QinetiQ’s unique electric propulsion technology uses electric motors to propel the vehicle. The motors are integrated into a cross-drive steering gearbox for tracked vehicles or they can sit in or near the wheel hubs for wheeled vehicles. These motors are powered by an energy source - which can include a combination of diesel-electric generators, batteries and fuel cells. The energy source creates electrical energy which can be transferred to the motors through cables, enabling the energy source to be situated almost anywhere in the vehicle. The immediate advantages are greater powertrain efficiency, enhanced mobility, reduced size and weight, faster launch speeds, and increased design flexibility, since the energy source and cables can go wherever you like. Find out more about this technology and its application to tracked and wheeled vehicles here.

Ion Thrusters

Following our initial development of the ground-breaking T1 ion thruster in the late sixties, QinetiQ is now a world leader in electric propulsion systems. The QinetiQ-engineered Solar Electric Propulsion System (SEPS) is powering the BepiColombo spacecraft as it makes its way across the solar system to Mercury following its launch in October 2018. This is the most powerful electric propulsion system ever flown. The QinetiQ T6 thrusters accelerate the joint ESA/JAXA spacecraft with a propellant of charged particles from xenon gas, powered by electricity generated by solar panels. This advanced form of propulsion minimises fuel consumption and addresses key mission challenges – such as the enormous gravitational pull of the Sun – while also maximising the quantity of scientific equipment being transported to Mercury.

The T6 is just one of our gridded ion thrusters, QinetiQ has a portfolio of these solar electric propulsion offerings designed for different missions in space. You can find out more about these here.

Stealth Materials for Wind Farms

Wind turbines cause electromagnetic interference with weather radars because the signals reflected off the tower and moving blades are indistinguishable from objects such as rain or hail that they are designed to detect. This means that wind farms have been largely prohibited near to weather stations and air traffic control systems.

Working to solve a customer’s needs in this area, scientists at QinetiQ designed an industry-leading, patented solution to enable the radar to continue to operate without invoking the radar impacts they had seen previously.

You can read more about our stealth materials for wind farms and other ways in which QinetiQ is working towards a greener, more renewable future in our next blog by QinetiQ’s IP specialist, Alan Wilkinson, which will be published on World IP Day on Sunday 26th April. You can also find out more about this subject here.