The Boeing Company - Arrogant, Paranoid, or What?

 

 

In June 2016 I sent a letter to Boeing Phantom Works in Seal Beach, California.

 

This is the response I received from Boeing’s Chief Counsel.

 

 

The Boeing Company

P.O. Box 516

St. Louis, MO 63166-0516

 

June 29, 2016

 

 

Mr. Jed Margolin

1981 Empire Road

Reno, NV 89521-7430

 

Re: Letter to Darryl Davis dated 20 June, 2016 regarding US patents

 

Dear Mr. Margolin:

 

Thank you for your interest in Boeing.

 

As you might imagine, we receive many messages each year, including offers and ideas about how to improve our products and services. We are thankful that so many people, like you, share our passion for aerospace.

 

However, like many large companies, we do not accept unsolicited ideas. We have found that there could be unintended consequences to simply accepting an idea. All of our employees are hard at work building a better Boeing, and processing the substantial numbers of ideas from outside our company takes a lot of time, cost and brings risk.

 

So while we appreciate your interest, we regret to inform you that we disposed of your message and retained no copies. Please understand that this was done on the basis of an established company policy, and not on the merit of your idea.

 

We very much appreciate the time and effort you took to write us, but we ask for your understanding in this matter. Thank you again for your support.

 

Sincerely,

 

___________________

Taralyn Trimpey

Chief Counsel

The Boeing Company 

 

 

For the scanned letter Click Here.

 

What “ideas” had I proposed to Boeing to produce such a toxic response?

 

Answer: I had not proposed any “ideas” to Boeing. I had asked them if they were interested in buying three of my issued U.S. Patents and one application that had been allowed but not yet issued.

 

 

1.   U.S. Patent 8,373,591 System For Sensing Aircraft and Other Objects issued 2/12/2013 to Margolin. (That’s me.)

Abstract

 

A system for sensing aircraft and other objects uses bistatic radar with spread-spectrum signals transmitted from remotely located sources such as aircraft flying at very high altitudes or from a satellite constellation. A bistatic spread spectrum radar system using a satellite constellation can be integrated with a communications system and/or with a system using long baseline radar interferometry to validate the digital terrain elevation database. The reliability and safety of TCAS and ADS-B are improved by using the signals transmitted from a TCAS or ADS-B unit as a radar transmitter with a receiver used to receive reflections. Aircraft and other objects using spread spectrum radar are detected by using two separate receiving systems. Cross-Correlation between the outputs of the two receiving systems reveals whether a noise signal is produced by the receiving systems themselves or is coming from the outside.

 

The Examiner required a restriction of the application and I complied.

 

The ‘591 patent covers the use of a satellite constellation to transmit encrypted signals that are used in a bistatic radar system that allows an aircraft to detect other aircraft and other objects. The satellite constellation can also be used for communications, a backup for GPS, and for long baseline interferometry to validate the digital terrain elevation database.  

 

2.  U.S. Patent 8,643,534 System for sensing aircraft and other objects issued February 4, 2014 to Margolin.

 

This patent resulted from the divisional of the application that resulted in the ‘591 patent. This covers the use of ADS-B as a radar.

 

 3.  After I received the ‘534 patent I improved the use of ADS-B as a radar and filed Application No. 14/146,202 ADS-B Radar. This application was filed January 2, 2014 and was published as U. S. Patent Application Publication 2015/0097714 on April 9, 2015.

 

Abstract

 

The reliability and safety of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) are improved by using the signals transmitted from an ADS-B unit as a radar transmitter with a receiver used to receive reflections.

 

I recently received a Notice of Allowance dated 6/20/2016.

 

4.   I also have U.S. Patent 8,838,289 System and method for safely flying unmanned aerial vehicles in civilian airspace issued September 16, 2014 to Margolin.

 

Abstract

A system and method for safely flying an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), or remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) in civilian airspace uses a remotely located pilot to control the aircraft using a synthetic vision system during at least selected phases of the flight such as during take-offs and landings.

 

 

 

For my letter to Boeing Click Here.

 

I am amazed that Boeing’s Chief Counsel does not understand the difference between an “idea” and an issued patent. Getting an “idea” is the easy part. People do it all the time. The hard part is to fully develop the “idea” and then get a patent. In a patent the claims are the legal definition of the invention. The Specification supports the claims and describes the invention in enough detail so that a Person having Ordinary Skill in the Art (a POSITA) can build the invention without undue experimentation. That’s more than an “idea”.

 

Her response seems arrogant. Or maybe paranoid.

 

Or maybe I hit a nerve.

 

Some of my patents address the problem that ADS-B was developed in a more-innocent time before hackers and terrorists. As a result, ADS-B messages are not authenticated. Therefore, they can be spoofed. Also, a hostile aircraft can simply turn its ADS-B signal off.

 

I did a search to see if Boeing had filed any patent applications relating to this problem after I filed mine.

 

I found a published patent application that caught my attention: U.S. Published Patent Application 20140327581 Device, System and Methods Using Angle of Arrival Measurements for ADS-B Authentication and Navigation published November 6, 2014. For the published application Click Here.

 

 

Abstract

 

The present disclosure is directed to a receiver for Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) verification of a target aircraft including a first input for receiving flight tracking information from a target aircraft that indicates positional information of the target aircraft. The receiver further includes a second input for receiving positional and heading information indicating the location and orientation of a multi-element array antenna configured to be attached to the receiver, and a processing module that generates a measured bearing derived from angle of arrival data, and an expected bearing of the target aircraft derived from the indicated positional information of the target aircraft and the positional and heading information defining the receiver location and orientation. A comparator compares the expected bearing to the measured bearing and verifies the ADS-B flight tracking information of the target aircraft and outputs an indication of authenticity based on the verification.

 

 

This Application has recently been allowed (6/21/2016). For the File Wrapper Click Here.

 

The Application was filed with 20 claims.

 

During prosecution the Examiner required a restriction saying that Claims 1-15 required a search in a field that was different from Claims 16-20:

 

I.  Claims 1-15, drawn to a ADS-B verification receiver and system, classified G01S3/043; and

 

II. Claim 16-20, drawn to a method of measuring AOA, classified in G01S1/08

 

Boeing tried to traverse the restriction requirement but the Examiner didn’t buy it.

 

The Examiner issued a First Office Action on the Merits (FOAM) dated 3/21/2016. His primary reference was Andersson et al., U.S. Patent Publication 2011/0163908 published July 7, 2011: Validity Check of Vehicle Position Information. Click Here.

 

 

Abstract

 

A method for validating received positional data in vehicle surveillance applications wherein vehicles transmit positional data indicating their own position to surrounding vehicles. A a {sic} radio direction finding antenna arrangement of a receiving unit receives a signal carrying positional data indicating an alleged position of a vehicle, transmitted from a radio source. The bearing from the receiving unit to the radio source is estimated utilizing the radio direction finding antenna arrangement and the received signal. The distance between the receiving unit and the radio source is estimated based on the time of flight for a signal travelling there between at known speed. An estimated position of the radio source is calculated based on the estimated bearing and the estimated distance. A deviation value indicating the deviation/coincidence between the alleged position of a vehicle is determined according to the received positional data and the estimated position of the radio source.

 

 

 

The Examiner also used Andersson in combination with Wild, U.S. Patent Publication 2012/0223811. Click Here.

 

Boeing had a telephone interview with the Examiner. As a result Boeing withdrew Claims 16-20 and amended Claim 14. (Click Here.)

 

 

Here is what I think. (I am not a patent attorney or agent so feel free to ignore this.)

 

Boeing determines the angle of arrival of the other aircraft’s ADS-B transmission using a directional antenna (a multi-element array) and compares it to an obvious calculation from what the ADS-B message reports.

 

The art of determining the direction of someone else’s transmitted signal is an old art. It is called Radio Direction Finding (RDF) or Automatic Direction Finding (ADF).

 

I described RDF basics in my patent: U.S. Patent 8,373,591 System for sensing aircraft and other objects. From Column 15 lines 24 - 39:

 

Referring to FIG. 7, Antenna 701 and Antenna 702 both receive Signal 703 from a target. Antenna 702 receives Signal 703 later than Antenna 701. Time translates to distance dt 704 which produces Angle 705. However, Antenna 702 could also receive Signal 706 from a target later than Antenna 701 and with the same delay. Distance dt 707 is the same as distance dt 704 so that Angle 708 is the same as Angle 705.

 

In FIG. 8 a third receiving system is added with Antenna 801 that is not collinear with Antenna 701 and Antenna 702. Signal 703 takes longer to arrive at Antenna 801 than does Signal 706 (distance dt 803 versus distance dt 802). The time delay of the signal received by Antenna 801 is compared to the two calculated values based on the geometry of Antennas 701, 702, and 801. Thus, it is determined whether the signal is Signal 703 or Signal 706.

 

Here are Figures 7 and 8:

 

 

 

The history of RDF is in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_direction_finder  (No, I didn’t write it).

 

Here is an old patent by a different Anderson (Donald W. Anderson): U.S. Patent 4,328,499 Radio direction finding systems issued May 4, 1982 to Anderson, et al. Click Here.

           

 

Abstract

 

A radio direction finding system in which the angle of arrival of radio signals incident on a group of antenna elements is determined from the relative phase or phases of the radio signals incident upon two or more of said antenna elements. One of said elements is connected to a first radio receiver, while the other elements of the group are connected in turn to a second radio receiver, successive values of relative phase between signals received by the two receivers being utlized {sic}to derive a value for the angle of arrival of a radio signal relative to the antenna elements.

 

 

 

Isn’t Anderson’s “two or more of said antenna elements” the same as Boeing’s “multi-element array antenna”?

 

Let’s look at Boeing’s allowed Claim 1.

 

 

1.   (Previously Presented)   An aircraft receiver for Automatic Dependent  Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) verification of a target aircraft, comprising:

 

a first input for receiving ADS-B flight tracking information from the target aircraft at the receiver, the ADS-B flight tracking information including indicated positional information of the target aircraft;

 

a second input for receiving positional information and heading information indicating the location and orientation of a multi-element array antenna configured to be attached to the receiver;

 

a processing module operative to: generate a measured bearing derived from angle of arrival data, and generate an expected bearing of the target aircraft derived from the indicated positional information of the target aircraft and the positional information and heading information defining the receiver location and orientation;

 

a comparator for comparing the expected bearing to the measured bearing and verifying the ADS-B flight tracking information of the target aircraft; and

 

an output device for outputting an indication of authenticity based on verifying the ADS-B flight tracking information of the target aircraft.

 

 

 

Let’s analyze it.

 

  a first input for receiving ADS-B flight tracking information from the target aircraft at the receiver, the ADS-B flight tracking information including indicated positional information of the target aircraft;

 

That is what ADS-B does. It reports the GNSS (GPS) position of the aircraft sending the ADS-B message. It also reports the aircraft’s ID and other things. A good description of the ADS-B message and the problems of spoofing can be found in:

 

Exploiting the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast System Via False Target Injection; Thesis by Domenic Magazu III, Captain, USAF; AFIT/GCO/ENG/12-07; Department of the Air Force, Air University; Air Force Institute of Technology; March 2012. http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA561697  For a mirrored copy Click Here.

 

 

a second input for receiving positional information and heading information indicating the location and orientation of a multi-element array antenna configured to be attached to the receiver;

 

The second input is the location and orientation of a multi-element array antenna. Presumably, that would be the GNSS (GPS) location of the multi-element array antenna. It doesn’t say what orientation of the multi-element array antenna is referenced to but we can probably let that pass.

 

 

a processing module operative to:

 

generate a measured bearing derived from angle of arrival data, and generate an expected bearing of the target aircraft derived from the indicated positional information of the target aircraft and the positional information and heading information defining the receiver location and orientation;

 

Where does the angle of arrival data come from and what is it the angle of arrival of?

 

Actually, the angle of arrival data comes from processing the signals from the multi-element array antenna. The process uses the standard RDF technique of comparing the phases (or times-of arrival) of the signal received by the different elements of the multi-element array antenna. Then factor in the orientation of the multi-element array antenna.  And the angle of arrival data is the angle of arrival of the ADS-B signal from the target aircraft.

 

But it doesn’t say that. The claim is the legal definition of the invention. If it isn’t in the claim it isn’t in the invention.

 

Here is how the angle of arrival of a signal is determined using a multi-element array antenna. This is not from Boeing. This is from Anderson ‘499 Column 1, lines 1 - 42:

 

 

The present invention relates to radio direction finding systems.

In particular the invention is concerned with direction finding systems in which a value for the direction of arrival of radio signals incident upon two or more spaced antenna elements is derived from the relative phases of said radio signals at the two or more antenna elements.

According to one aspect of the present invention in a radio direction finding system of the kind in which the angle of arrival of radio signals incident upon two or more spaced antenna elements of the system is determined at least in part from the relative phase or phases of the radio signals incident upon said two or more antenna elements, there are provided at least three antenna elements, one of which is connected to a first radio receiver while the remainder are connected in turn to a second radio receiver, successive values of the relative phase between signals received by said two receivers being utilised to derive a value for the direction of arrival of said radio signal relative to said antenna elements.

According to another aspect of the present invention in a radio direction finding system of the kind in which radio signals incident upon spaced antenna elements are compared in phase and the value of phase of difference is utilised to determine the angle of arrival of said radio signals with respect to said antenna elements, there are provided two radio receiver arrangements and three or more spaced antenna elements, one of said receiver arrangements being arranged to receive radio signals from one only of said three or more antenna elements and the other of said receiver arrangements being arranged to receive radio signals selectively from any one of the remaining antenna elements, and the angle of arrival of said radio signals is arranged to be determined from the respective phase differences between radio signals received by one antenna element and by said other antenna elements respectively.

Preferably the signals representing said phase differences are digitally encoded and stored at least temporarily in digital storage means, and said remaining antenna elements are connected in turn to said other receiving arrangement to provide a succession of such phase difference signals, from which an unambiguous value for the angle of arrival of said radio signals may be derived.

 

 

 

Another problem with this claim element is that is uses “positional information and heading information defining the receiver location and orientation” while previously it used the position and orientation of the multi-element array antenna. So, which is it? Does the invention use the position and orientation of the multi-antenna array antenna or the position and orientation of the receiver? And why would the orientation of the receiver matter? (That should be in the claim, too.) 

 

 

a comparator for comparing the expected bearing to the measured bearing and verifying the ADS-B flight tracking information of the target aircraft; and

 

The expected bearing to the target aircraft is determined by the relative GNSS (GPS) positions of the target aircraft and your own multi-element antenna. This is analogous to drawing a line between two positions on a paper map and using a protractor to measure the angle between that line and a reference, such as North or your own heading.

 

   

 

 

an output device for outputting an indication of authenticity on verifying the ADS-B flight tracking information of the target aircraft.

 

An invention that processes data must produce a result in the physical world. Putting information on a monitor, turning  a light on, or sending a signal to a speaker that produces an audible sound generally satisfies this requirement. (It is actually more complicated than that: https://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2106.html)

 

 

As the above analysis shows, none of elements in Boeing Claim 1 is new or unobvious and the combination of the elements does not produce a new or unexpected result.

 

Plus, the claim is indefinite because it fails to show that the angle of arrival is determined by using the multi-element array antenna and that the angle of arrival is the angle of arrival of the ADS-B signal transmitted by the target aircraft.

 

(Indefinite-ness comes under 35 U.S.C. 112 (b):

 

 

(b) CONCLUSION.—The specification shall conclude with one or more claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the inventor or a joint inventor regards as the invention.

 

 

 

There are some limitations in Boeing’s system.

 

1.  It only works if the target aircraft is transmitting an ADS-B signal.

 

2.  It only produces a heading to the target aircraft, not the range (distance). Two target aircraft in different locations could have the same bearing from your aircraft. It is unlikely but could happen in a crowded airspace around an airport.

  

 

My system does not have these limitations.

 

I will also point out that:

 

1.  My Patent 8,373,591 claims priority from a Provisional Application No. 61/256,765 filed on Oct. 30, 2009. (I posted it on my Web site shortly afterwards.) The application was published as Publication Number 2011/0169684 July 14, 2011. The patent was issued February 12, 2013.

 

2.  Boeing’s patent application was filed May 2, 2013 and does not claim priority from a previous application. (See the Boeing Application Data Sheet in the File Wrapper. A priority claim would be in either Domestic Benefit/National Stage Information or Foreign Priority Information.

 

Boeing filed their patent application three months after my patent was issued and about 1 year and 9 months after my application was published by the USPTO (and about 3 years and 6 months after I posted the Provisional Application on my Web site).

 

 

I am not the only one who has received this kind of boorish treatment from Boeing.

 

When the Lithium Ion batteries in Boeing’s then-new 787 started catching fire, Elon Musk offered to help them design a safe battery pack. Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, and others) is an expert on Lithium Ion batteries. Boeing ignored him.

 

Instead, from Aviation Week & Space Technology April 29, 2013) Boeing’s Battery Fix Preserves 787 Systems:

 

The FAA has superseded its emergency airworthiness directive in the Federal Register April 26, but the JCAB has not said when it will approve flights. The FAA estimates the cost to United Airlines of fixing each airplane and revising its maintenance program at $2,788,578. United is the only U.S. carrier flying the 787. Each installation will need a regulatory sign-off before the aircraft can return to service.

 

The kits take about five days to install and include a 1/8th-in.-thick stainless steel battery enclosure, vent line assembly, battery charger, wire bundles and associated hardware. The enclosure is designed to meet a 300C event without thermal risk to the aircraft. New batteries, which have been redesigned to better insulate their eight cells, are being shipped directly to carriers from the Kyoto-based manufacturer, GS Yuasa.

 

From Boeing’s 787 Lithium-ion Battery Events - A Guide for Fire Fighters Click Here.

(From: www.boeing.com/assets/pdf/commercial/airports/faqs/787batteryprocedures.pdf)

 

This appears to be the Vent to the outside.

 

 

 

What it really should say is:

 

            Caution: Flames and Toxic Gas May Be Vented Without Warning.

 

Also, notice that the vent is located on the bottom of the aircraft.  Unless the toxic gas is much denser than air it will come up and around the fuselage. The flames will definitely come up and around the fuselage. What will be the long-term effects of the toxic gas and flames on the fuselage material?  (The fuselage material is a combination of fiber reinforcement and resin matrix. See http://www.compositesworld.com/blog/post/despite-787-boeing-not-sold-on-composites)

 

Also, assuming the aircraft is not moving (very fast) and is rightside up when it vents, the venting toxic gas may dissolve the painted warning and/or the flames may burn it off. The warning will have to be repainted every time the battery catches fire.

 

The warning should be placed several feet forward of the vent with an arrow pointing to the vent.

 

 

Jed Margolin

Virginia City Highlands, Nevada

8/9/2016