Fayetteville-based Space Photonics Inc., with headquarters at the Arkansas Research & Technology Park, has received its seventh patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the technology sector that includes free space laser communications.
SPI markets and sells high reliability optical communications systems for military and aerospace applications. The new patent, titled “Simultaneous Multi-Channel Optical Communications System with Beam Pointing, Switching and Tracking Using Moving Focal Plane Devices,” and the company’s other patents use specific inventions for pointing and tracking of free space laser communications beams used for ultra-high capacity digital signals commonly used in ground based internet networks. The technology will provide a boost for emerging global networks using satellites, aircraft and high altitude balloons.
The market for such technologies has been small and limited to only a few select applications, but SPI president and CEO Chuck Chalfant said there appears to be a measurable spike in interest. He said both Google and Facebook are investigating laser communications for high altitude balloons and high altitude unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in their pursuit to provide high speed internet services to all regions of the globe.
“This patent is by far the most valuable we’ve received,” Chalfant said. “It provides innovative but simple techniques for pointing and tracking laser communications beams sent and received from moving airborne and spaceborne vehicles.”
Chalfant founded SPI in February 1999. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Hendrix College in Conway and a master’s degree in physics from the University of Arkansas, where he specialized in laser technology.