Solace Makes Wireless Power Real

Solace Power won the Sixth Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge in 2015. Now Sikorsky and Solace are working together to develop new products around Solace’s wireless power technology. If you are considering an application to the next E-Challenge, Solace Power demonstrates the characteristics that have already succeeded.

Wireless Power — inspired by way too many chargers and cords.
For Solace Power, there is no such thing as overnight success.

Kris McNeil founded the company in 2007. His background included developing software for mobile phones just as the transition from flip phones began. He found himself in a hotel room one night preparing for a meeting with potential customers, entangled in a nest of chargers and cords. He thought there must be a better way.

McNeil’s vision was to “decouple” battery-powered devices – cut the cords — from their charging sources. Wireless charging was the answer, but there were still plenty of questions about how to make the technology work.

The chief standard for wireless charging is called resonant magnetic induction. Solace uses a different method, which it has trademarked as Resonant Capacitive Coupling, or RC2.

RC2. allows for greater “spatial tolerance,” which means the device being charged does not have to be coupled so closely to the charging station. Current wireless chargers for cell phones, for example, require the phone to lie directly on the charging pad. Spatial tolerance allows the phone to be nearby, but without the requirement to place the phone in a cradle.

(You may have heard of a couple of other companies that promise wireless charging with sound or radio waves. One, Ubeam, has been the subject of unfavorable press when its chief engineer said the technology wouldn’t work.)

Neil Chaulk, Solace Vice President of Business Development, said the

Solace Power Winner of the 6th Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge
L to R: For the Win!! Jonathan Hartman from Sikorsky Innovations congratulates Neil Chaulk, Rane Brennan, and Magnus Nyberg from Solace Power (in front of a bust of Igor Sikorsky).

company has 21 customers; they all have hired Solace for engineering and research in aerospace, defense, automotive and other industrials. The long-term goal for Solace, he said, is to license its technology to other companies. In September, the company announced the first of those deals with Rockford, MI – based Byrne, a leading power and data solutions company.

Chaulk said he believes Solace  is the only company in the world that is working to sell RC2. technology. The advantages from the approach should go well beyond cell phones. For instance, drones could benefit from quick, wireless charging, as well as automotive and office products. (To see a demo of Solace’s tech in action, click here. 

The technology might also enable communication between sensors and devices that must be constantly monitored. Such an advance would be especially beneficial to a helicopter manufacturer that is trying to reduce aircraft weight by eliminating traditional batteries and cables.

An upcoming installment of TechAloft will detail how Solace won the sixth E-Challenge, and how Solace and Sikorsky have worked together in the two years since.


Processing IoT Data from Remote Pumps and Systems — Mouser Electronics

Editor’s note: In research for the TechAloft Newsletter, we found several companies that are working with sensors and data fusion. Although they have not entered the EChallenge, we offer their accomplishments as exemplars in the field.

Mouser Electronics of Texas is a distributor of semiconductors and electronic components. The company makes sensors for many uses.

“An unattended pump operating in a remote location is always at some risk of failing” Mouser says on its website. “A few years ago, a remote sensor may have been in place to identify if it were running hot or had even failed. Now, the same pump can also be monitored for vibration, exhaust chemistry, bearing noise, and the external conditions around it. The system would also know in advance whether it is likely that the entire pump must be replaced or just a component. The same general idea applies to monitoring an aircraft engine in flight, a building elevator, or just about anything mechanical.”

Much of Mouser’s research is concentrated on use of the cloud to store data and efficiently disseminate information.

Companies like Mouser and Mouser’s partners would be ideal candidates to help satisfy the requirements of the 8th Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge, which is looking for a system of sensor data fusion able to gather and identify information from all parts of an aircraft, from blade integrity to virtually every function while airborne. It would be robust and muscular, while using as few onboard resources (power and weight) as possible.


Attend 6/14 Webinar — IoT For Aerospace and Defense

Sikorsky and Lockheed are looking for your great tech. 8th Sikorsky Entrerpreneurial Challenge is open until July 14, 2017

Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin have announced a June 14 webinar that will provide the details behind the IoT tech that the companies are looking for in the 8th Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge.  On this webinar, top Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin technical leaders will take participants through their needs for robust IoT technology in the areas of Sensor communication, On-Sensor processing (Sensor Fusion), and Next Generation Wireless Communication.

For more details on the background and application of these technology areas, please visit

To register for the webinar, please click here.


All finalists get a chance to discuss their solution and ideally develop relationships with the appropriate engineering teams at Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin.  Top awardee receives $25K in non-dilutive funding.  Please encourage  your portfolio companies to consider applying for this unique program.

Through the Entrepreneurial Challenge, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin identify potential collaborators that can help solve some of the toughest industry challenges.

Awardees will gain entry to an extensive network of technical experts, business mentors, strategic team members, potential customers and experienced investors.  Previous IoT related awardees include companies in the area of battery storage and wireless electricity.



A Radio That Thinks — and Other Assured Communication Topics

Designing a radio that thinks

Sikorsky 25K Entrepreneurial Challenge
Do you have a wireless voice or data solution that can help further the quest for Assured Communication? Click here to learn more about the 8th Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge.

A cognitive radio does appear to think, if you include sensing, choosing and observation to be within the realm of thinking. A cognitive radio searches for unused frequencies through which it sends information. While traditional radio transmitters are confined to a specific regulated frequency, cognitive radios, using software based on algorithms, can switch signals to the unused spaces between used frequencies.

Several companies are developing solutions based on cognitive radio, with a goal of providing continuous communications in any type of environment.

Filling white space with information
Shared Spectrum Company, also called SSC, is based in Vienna, Virginia. It has been a pioneer in the development of a protocol called Dynamic Spectrum Access.
The IEEE describes DSA as a spectrum-sharing paradigm that allows so-called secondary users to fill the holes or “white spaces” between licensed bands. A cognitive radio finds the unused bands and connects multiple users.

The result could be lower costs for communication systems within relatively small areas, such as buildings, but it could also be used to ensure that communication during difficult situations, such as weather events or combat, continues without disruption.

A cognitive radio solution could provide a competitive solution for one of the focus areas in the Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge now underway. While increased use of the electromagnetic frequency spectrum creates multi-path and fading issues, solving those problems could lead to new communication breakthroughs.

Increase the number of antennae to improve reliability
There are other potential solutions to extend and harden communications systems as well.

A company named Nutaq of Canada makes equipment that exploits multiple antenna, or MIMO, technology. The software for such a multi-node system must be able to efficiently transfer signals via the most efficient connections in order to not use too much energy or increase costs, but its use of hundreds or thousands of antennas makes it incredibly robust because communications can be maintained even if some antennas are lost.

Nutac is also advancing high-speed networks that connect sensors and communicate information they gather via wireless and wired Internet connections.

If you can fix the subway…
The New York subway system isn’t exactly a war zone but it is the scene of vibration, noise, moisture (during power washing), dust and temperature spikes. A company called SOLiD, of Sunnyvale, California, uses Distributed Antenna Systems, an array of smaller nodes that cover the same area as one larger antenna. The nodes, attached to subway platform ceilings, use less power but are more reliable and can serve more customers.

If you think you have a solution to the EChallenge’s Focus Area No. 2, Adaptive Communications for Assured Data Exchange, apply today. You may become a partner with Sikorsky in the next manufacturing innovation.



Assured Communications —

Ever had a problem with a cell phone call?  Now imagine if you were having those sorts of communication issues in a life or death situation.

Increased use of the electromagnetic frequency spectrum can create issues for high bandwidth data and voice transmission between dispersed platforms, such as airplanes and ships. Such issues are not unlike those facing large commercial data networks today, including multi-path and fading issues experienced on 3G, 4G and emerging 5G capabilities.  In this video, Sikorsky’s Jonathan Hartman takes us through some of the scenarios where Assured Communication will be critical, and the technologies that have the best chance to solve these issues.

To learn more about this area of technology and others in the 8th Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge, please visit:

To subscribe to our newsletter, register here:


Staying Ahead of Sensor Failure in Extreme Environments

Although materials used in the construction of components for modern aircraft are built for durability, the extreme conditions sometimes imposed on them create the potential for part failure. Thus the need for increasingly sophisticated systems to monitor the health of the machines and their parts.

As the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health reported in a publication called “Overview of Fiber Optic Sensor Technologies for Strain/Temperature Sensing Applications in Composite Materials,” the threat of material failure “necessitates the requirement for non-destructive structural health monitoring techniques throughout the lifetime of the composite structural part.”

This report examines the characteristics of fiber optics, which are low-cost and can be embedded in materials and continue to send information while monitoring strain and temperature in extreme conditions in issues such as such as bend loading in aircraft wings.

The Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge is looking to reward advances in sensors that remain robust in extreme operational temperature range, wet, high vibration while measuring strain, vibration, temperature and other modalities. Learn more about the E-Challenge guidelines here.


Access to AI could help you succeed in the EChallenge

The romantic notion of the lone scientist bringing world-changing inventions to life all by himself has always been an exceedingly rare occurence. Example: Jobs without Wozniak – and many others – would not have created Apple. The difference today is that you might be able to find the missing link to your success online, rather than in the garage or lab next door. And your help might not even come in the form of a person.

The so-called democratization of Artificial Intelligence gives innovators cheap, easy access to resources that will help them crack tough problems, according to this article published in Knowledge@Wharton. Algorithms that assist in software design, for example, are now available in online markets, meaning “that the world of machine learning is no longer restricted to university labs and corporate research centers that have access to massive training data and computing infrastructure.” The article adds that individuals and startups will have better opportunities to “get their ideas off the ground and prove their concepts before raising the funds needed to scale.”

What does it all mean?

For one thing, it’s the perfect time to enter the 8th Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge, which is looking for the next big ideas in three areas:

  1. Distributed, reconfigurable MEMS sensor network
  2. Adaptive communications for assured data exchange
  3. Advanced sensor fusion

No. 3, Advanced sensor fusion, requires “software and algorithms capable of combining previously disparate sensor data into a single data stream for either output to display interfaces or used as an input to advanced navigation systems. Algorithms that can simultaneously correlate and cross-check for data validity would be ideal.”

According to the Knowledge@Wharton article, the democratization of IA offers inventors a toolbox that will help them bring “an amazing array of intelligent software and devices [to power] our world.”


Real innovation thrives on a combination of viewpoints and talents

Walter Isaacson, in his book, “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” shows that brilliant individuals were key to the development of the age of the Internet and personal computer. But the most important milestones, Isaacson argued, were achieved when bright and motivated people worked in groups, exchanging ideas and building incrementally on each other’s innovations. It was true for the modern computer, the transistor, the microchip and the video game industry, as well as the Internet and personal computer.

In that same spirit, Sikorsky has created the Entrepreneurial Challenge, now in its fifth year. The challenge is a competition for ideas that might someday be incorporated by the company to improve helicopters and other flight systems.

The small team that judges submissions looks especially for new perspectives and ways of thinking – ideas that, when their creators start working with Sikorsky engineers, might be the seed of something even bigger.

Do you have one of those ideas? Lockheed has designated three focus areas for the 8th Entrepreneurial Challenge:

  1. Distributed, reconfigurable MEMS sensor network
  2. Adaptive communications for assured data exchange
  3. Advanced sensor fusion

Read more about the three focus areas at the Entrepreneurial Challenge website.

And follow the Techaloft blog for information about research and innovation in science and engineering. Through July 14, we will concentrate on advances in the Entrepreneurial Challenge focus areas.


How to avoid aircraft obsolescence and its cost

As aircraft age, owners become interested in methods to keep them in the air as long as possible. The process can be expensive, and ideally new systems would be integrated into original equipment to avoid wholesale replacement. Updating electronic systems is especially complicated by the additional energy and infrastructure that modern systems require. At the same time, engineers search for upgrades that will improve fuel efficiency, reduce burdens on pilots, and increase safety.

A Federal Aviation Administration draft report on “Obsolescence and Life Cycle Management for Avionics” stated “the obsolescence problem cannot be solved only by engineering methods, but also requires proactive measures and risk-awareness planning by both customers and suppliers.”

The Air Force Sustainment Center last year awarded an $8.1 million contract for support to the Air Force Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages program to manage an obsolescence-prediction system.

And to address one aspect of the issue for the Air Force, Physical Optics Corporation in California created Digital Aircraft Data Storage. The solution keeps aircraft updated and flying by increasing data transmission speeds and storage limitations — but requires no aircraft harness rewiring or operational flight program modifications to legacy aircraft.

NOTE:  This article is a reprint from the 3/30 edition of our bi-weekly TechAloft Newsletter.  To subscribe to the newsletter, click here.