Fiber optic sensing system

Award Year 

Innovators at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center and 4DSP, a company specializing in signal and image processing systems, have co-developed a lightweight, robust, fiber optic sensor system that represents a major breakthrough in high-speed operational monitoring and sensing technology. For the first time, real-time strain measurements can be used to determine the shape of an aircraft's wing, monitor the structural integrity of buildings and pipelines, ensure precise placement of the tiniest catheters, and much more, all at high spatial fidelity. (more)

NASA developed the original fiber optic sensing technology, and the Dryden team miniaturized the technology, created ultra-efficient algorithms, and eliminated issues with polarization-induced fading. Dryden sought a partner to develop hardware for the technology. It partnered with 4DSP through a Space Act Agreement, and the two organizations co-developed numerous additional advancements to the technology.

Pierrick Vulliez at 4DSP partnered with NASA in 2007 to develop hardware. The company licensed the technology from NASA in 2011 and brought to market the RTS-150, a fiber optic sensing system that represents a 20-fold improvement over existing systems. This new product was significant for 4DSP as the company previously had no experience in fiber optics. As a byproduct of this collaboration, 4DSP also developed improved signaling and processing products, including processing cards and a new generation of electronic products.

Dryden was able to take the core algorithm at the center of the technology and translate it to 4DSP's hardware. The system has been successfully tested and validated on multiple NASA platforms, and Dryden has begun working with NASA's Kennedy Space Center to incorporate the fiber optic sensing system into an expendable launch vehicle. All of these projects have proven definitively that this technology represents a significant breakthrough for aviation and aerospace applications.

In August 2012, 4DSP announced the commercial availability of its off-the-shelf, real-time fiber optic sensing technology and officially launched live industry demonstrations. The technology transfer effort has come full circle, as several NASA centers (Marshall Space Flight Center, Langley Research Center and Dryden Flight Research Center) have become customers and purchased the RTS-150. Virgin Galactic has also become a customer, along with several major research universities. This success has fueled 4DSP's growth and made it possible to create 10 new, high-quality jobs in the U.S.