GE Seeks Patent on Flight Control System to More Accurately Predict Fuel Usage, Arrival Time

General Electric, known popularly by the acronym GE, is a multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in the American city of Fairfield, CT. GE’s corporate offerings are incredibly diverse in both the consumer and industrial markets, and as this video from Bloomberg suggests, the corporation is almost impossible to define because of its wide degree of product offerings. The company has long been associated with American technological ingenuity, and with recent reports indicating an optimistic upturn in corporate profits, it’s likely that this technology developer will continue to be an innovator to watch for years to come.

IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series has highlighted General Electric before, and once again we’ve decided to head back to this major American corporation to profile its recent inventions. Every week, these intriguing new technologies are the subject of patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We’ve featured technologies related to many industrial sectors and alternative energy development in the past from GE, but January finds this corporation focused more on transportation systems and home appliances.

The featured application today discusses a novel GE system of flight management that has the potential to create great savings in costs incurred by airlines on a flight-by-flight basis. This system can respond dynamically mid-flight to changes in weather conditions and other parameters that affect fuel usage and other costs. Additional patent applications we discovered involve improvements to dosimeters and other chemical sensors as well as a newly designed dishwasher heating element that can improve user safety.

General Electric has also been the happy recipient of a number of issued patents that protect a series of interesting inventions related to electronic appliances. Two of these discuss methods of using energy more cheaply by drawing it off a grid at non-peak hours, both within the appliance and through a control module that interfaces between appliances and a smart home electrical system. Finally, we focus on a couple of patents that describe improvements to diagnostic and communication systems for locomotives.



Systems and Methods for Flight Management
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140018980

Commercial airliners generally use a flight management system (FMS), which is responsible for controlling an aircraft while in flight. The FMS is responsible for keeping the plane aloft at a certain altitude while following a pre-planned flight trajectory towards an intended destination. Depending on the parameters chosen for the flight plan because of weather and fuel usage, the cost of an individual flight may greatly vary. There are also time costs associated with arriving early or late to an airport which make up a great deal of the costs for an individual flight.

Current methods of managing FMS systems typically require setting the flight parameters before takeoff and adhering to those initial parameters throughout the flight. However, this does a poor job of accounting for weather or other events that can impact the fuel and time costs of a flight. High wind speeds and atmospheric pressure changes can greatly affect fuel usage and arrival time, and actual weather conditions can be much different than forecasted conditions.

General Electric has filed this patent application with the USPTO to protect a system of minimizing the costs for individual flights by being more reactive to flight plan changes. This improved FMS incorporates cost index parameters along with weather condition forecasts, cruise altitude and lateral route trajectory into the planned route. Based on various conditions, the altitude, lateral path or other travel options may be adjusted for different portions of the route.

The system also uses a series of sensors to collect flight data, including speed, altitude and air temperature, in an onboard computer. Based on this data and other information about fuel usage and other costs, the system can dynamically adjust flight parameters during passage to maximize the value of fuel and arrival time. The onboard computer processing this data also communicates with a display unit that has a user interface for humans to provide flight recommendations to aircraft personnel.

Claim 1 of this General Electric patent application would provide protections for:

“A flight control system comprising: a flight management system configured to manage aircraft flight control including at least one of a flight path or an altitude for an aircraft; and a flight parameter selection module configured to determine a Cost Index (CI) and cruising altitude for use by the flight management system to manage the aircraft flight control, the determination based on a flight cost and predicted weather along the flight path.”


Other Patent Applications

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140007911, titled “Heating Element for a Dishwashing Appliance.”

General Electric is a major developer of consumer, business and utility products in use all over the world. As such, the corporation is greatly involved with a wide scope of innovation, as recent patent applications published by the USPTO will confirm. Today at IPWatchdog, we’re noticing a couple of patent applications that seek to protect vapor analysis and chemical detection technologies that may be used in a wide variety of industries. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140019067, entitled Temperature-Independent Chemical and Biological Sensors, discusses improvements to environmental sensors that can determine the presence of chemical and biological materials in liquids. These sensors, comprised of resonant inductor-capacitor-resistor circuit with a sensing region, are designed to be more resistant to issues related to extreme humidity and temperature in sensing environments. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140011286, which is titled Sensors for Gas Dosimetry, would protect a gas dosimeter that could discern between multiple contaminants within a vapor, which provides more accurate measurements of vapor materials. According to the description sections in both applications, either of these technologies may be applied to monitoring changes in biopharmaceuticals and food during production, industrial chemical hazard detection as well as various public security and safety applications.

We’ve also decided to explore some patent applications highlighting interesting innovations that discuss health and safety improvements to previous General Electric products. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140007911, titled Heating Element for a Dishwashing Appliance, would protect a new heating element component for dishwashers that would allow an owner to access the filter compartment to change the filter without reaching directly over the heating element. Families and others living close to a power plant will likely appreciate the innovations discussed in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140016790, which is titled Balancing Power Plant Sound. This patent application discusses acoustic management techniques that can be used to mitigate the sound created by a power plant environment.



Issued Patents of Note

Every single Tuesday, the USPTO publishes the patents that it has decided to award to applicants that week. These issued patents are what’s truly valuable about the patent office’s activities, as they provide the official protections allowing a company to seek redress for infringements of their intellectual property in court. In this edition of Companies We Follow, we’re seeing some issued patents that continue GE’s tradition of innovation in home appliances. A couple of onboard vehicle systems are also protected by a couple of patents, indicating the company’s desire to improve their vehicular technology holdings.

Home chefs will have the ability to customize their own oven to handle a variety of cooking jobs with the innovations laid out in U.S. Patent No. 8629376, entitled Multimount Oven Rack. This issued patent protects the development of an oven rack that increases the usable space of the entire oven by sitting over a bake element on the lower part of the oven housing.

From U.S. Patent No. 8,629,376, entitled “Multimount Oven Rack.”

U.S. Patent No. 8627689, which is titled Energy Management of Clothes Washer Appliance, discusses methods of drawing energy during off-peak hours for electricity demand and storing that energy within rechargeable batteries. This method of energy storage can help a household reduce its energy costs by drawing energy from the grid when it is less expensive. More inclusive methods of drawing cheaper energy for a plurality of home appliances are described in U.S. Patent No. 8618452, which is titled Energy Management of Household Appliances. This patent protects a control module that could interface between home appliances, including refrigerators, microwaves and washing machines, to reduce the draw of energy by individual appliances during hours of peak energy demand.

Industrial vehicles and rail systems are at the focus of a couple other patents assigned to General Electric by the USPTO recently. We’ve discussed systems of connecting a plurality of devices and vehicles to Internet-connected networks, like in our coverage of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show and the “Internet of Things” concept which has been growing rapidly. U.S. Patent No. 8620552, which is titled Data Communication System and Method for Communicating Data in a Vehicle, combines different communication protocols for controlling systems on a locomotive into a single standard, enabling better operator control of locomotive systems via a single device. Finally, U.S. Patent No. 8626372, entitled Systems and Methods for Diagnosing an Engine, describes methods of diagnosing railcar engine components for wear or malfunction based on data recovered by speed sensors within the engine.


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