Supernumerary Robotic Limbs

Taxpayer-Funded Patent Applications for September 30, 2021

Hello from FedInvent.

Happy New Year in the Federal Innovation Ecosphere. The new federal fiscal year started at midnight on October 1st. The government is only funded until December 3, 2021. For now, things are running without a new budget.

At this writing, the Infrastructure Bill is still floating around. There is no word yet on the reconciliation bill, rebranded as the social policy and climate package. There are billions in R&D funding and the policy initiatives buried in the bills. It's not clear when or if these bills will become law. If you are a politics junkie, the political season is in full swing inside the Beltway.

If you are a data junkie, you can access the FedInvent Patent Application Report for September 30, 2021, here.

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Here are the highlights.

Wearable Robotics - Read This Patent

One of the areas where there is innovation going on in the federal innovation ecosphere is wearable robotics. Some wearable mobility robots, exoskeletons bring mobility to limbs that are no longer working. There are inventions that address how to improve the human-machine interface to make the mobility aspects of these inventions more natural for the user. Some wearable robots add limbs to people who have no physical limitations but will benefit from enhanced capabilities to avoid occupational accidents and improve productivity.

Improving Limbs

The National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Electrical, Communications, and Cyber Systems (ECCS), funded the University of Texas in Austin's efforts to build a novel upper body robotic exoskeleton (20210298983). This invention comes from Texas Robotics, a collaboration of students, world-class faculty, researchers, and industry leaders to fuel the future of robotics. The University of Texas converted the 55,000 sq. ft. Anna Hiss Gymnasium into a state-of-the-art robotics research facility. This one-claim patent application is a useful robotic mechanism for telemanipulation, man-amplification, rehabilitation, and assisting impaired human motor control.  

Adding Limbs

Earlier this year, inventors from MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory were granted US Patent 11,000,945, "Wearable robotic systems for supporting a load." The d'Arbeloff lab builds robots for manufacturing, healthcare, and education. The invention is for Supernumerary Robotic Limbs. 

Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRL) is a wearable robot that provides a human user with two additional robotic arms. The SRL is being used to assist wearers in complex tasks, compensate for their weight while working in uncomfortable positions, and augment their balance during walking. Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRLs) are not kinematically tied to the operator's limbs. Instead, the limbs take independent structural configurations to assist a user.

The Department of Energy (DOE) funded this invention. The Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (EM) mission addresses the nation's Cold War environmental legacy resulting from five decades of nuclear weapons production and government-sponsored nuclear energy research. This legacy includes some of the world's most dangerous radioactive sites with large amounts of radioactive wastes, spent nuclear fuel (SNF), excess plutonium and uranium, thousands of contaminated facilities, and contaminated soil and groundwater. Created in 1989, EM is responsible for completing the cleanup of this Cold War legacy and managing the remaining nuclear materials.

As the largest environmental cleanup program in the world, EM has been charged with the responsibility of cleaning up 107 sites across the country whose area is equal to the combined area of Rhode Island and Delaware. EM has made substantial progress in nearly every area of nuclear waste cleanup and has completed cleanup at 91 of these sites. This invention has the potential to enable DOE to accelerate the grueling work that takes place on these sites.

"Nuclear decommissioning workers that enter areas contaminated with radioactive or other hazardous material wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as Hazmat suits and carry Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA). These suits and SCBA tanks limit the amount of time a worker may stay in the working area. Typically, 13.6-kilogram (30-pound) Aluminum SCBA systems are currently used on-site and last only 30 minutes. While 30 minutes may be enough time to arrive at a task location, perform the task, and return to a decontamination station, heat exhaustion usually sets in before the tank can be depleted of air. Therefore, while larger and heavier air tanks may allow more air to be carried at a time, the increased loads associated with these tanks would only cause a worker to fatigue faster due to the effort required to carry around the added weight."

You can see the Supernumerary Robotic Limbs in action on Dr. Daniel Gonzalez's website.  

Orthotics is a term that refers to a device used to enhance a person's limb. A prosthetic device replaces a person's limb. Adding limbs is a little of both. Novel wearable robotic inventions blur the lines between orthotic and prosthetic devices.  

The Tanker — Gas Station In the Sky

A patent application from The Boeing Company, 20210300583, "Assisted Boom Actuator' was published on Thursday. This invention comes from one of the Defense Department's most strategic acquisition programs — The Tanker — a program for building new military aerial refueling aircraft, the gas stations in the sky. This work was funded under DOD's KC-X Modernization Program. Inside the Beltway, the program is known as the KC-135 Replacement Program.  

On February 24, 2011, the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center selected Boeing's proposal as the winning offer to replace part of the current KC-135 fleet. As of September 30, 2021, this program has $20.2 billion in funding with a potential award amount of $49.8 billion. This is the Air Force contract that Boeing's engineers worked on when they invented the Assisted Boom Actuator.

The Air Force image above is An F-16C Fighting Falcon and an F-15E Strike Eagle from the 85th Test Evaluation Squadron receive aerial refueling from a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to MacDill Air Force Base near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., March 19, 2019. The Stratotanker provides the core aerial refueling capabilities for the United States Air Force (until they can get this 767 version working).

The KC-135 Stratotanker will be 70 years old when the Air Force expects to receive its last KC-46 delivery in 2029

Tanker Inventions

Here is what other patent, intellectual property our taxpayer dollars paid for on the KC-X Modernization Program.


10,981,665 — System and method for aerial refueling door actuation (BOEING)

10,495,727  — Phase difference estimator and method for estimating a phase difference between signals (RAYTHEON COMPANY)

10,377,496  — Systems and methods for controlling airflow in a vehicle (BOEING)

10,343,788  — Telescoping refueling boom control systems and methods (BOEING)

10,259,592  — Aircraft receptacle (BOEING)

10,239,631  — Aircraft receptacle (BOEING)

10,215,836  — Geolocation on a single platform having flexible portions (RAYTHEON COMPANY)

10,124,904  — Aircraft refueling boom soft limits control (BOEING)

10,067,515  — Receiver surge test tool assembly, system, and method (BOEING)

10,053,223  — Aircraft refueling boom soft limits system

9,891,306  — Geolocating a remote emitter (RAYTHEON COMPANY)

9,625,566  —Direct geolocation from TDOA, FDOA, and AGL (RAYTHEON COMPANY)

9,533,754  — Wing aerial refueling system (BOEING)

9,198,150  — Link path delay estimator that combines coarse and fine delay estimates (RAYTHEON COMPANY)

Pending Applications


20210095483 — Aircraft Internal Hanging Scaffold (BOEING)

20200041049 — Coupling Assembly To Connect First and Second Conduits (BOEING)

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The Intelligence Community

Thursday's patent application drop included two patent applications from the Intelligence Community (IC).

The CIA is the funding source for Rocket Lab USA, Inc's application for "Satellite Deployer with Externally Adjustable Payload Restraint" (20210300598). The application refers to the invention as a satellite dispenser. A Pez dispenser for satellites? 

The race for satellites in space is on. According to Statistica, "In 2020, an estimated total of 3,368 active satellites were orbiting the Earth, an increase from 2,298 active satellites in 2019. Of the 3,372 active artificial satellites orbiting the Earth as of January 1, 2021, 1,897 belong to the United States. The US has the largest number of satellites of any single country, with the nearest competitor, China, accounting for only 412. (The number of satellites shifts depending on which source you rely on.)

Artificial satellite is a term of art in the space world. An artificial satellite is an object that people have made and launched into orbit using rockets. 

Rocket Labs, USA has an interesting list of their completed missions here, complete with mission notes. Their most recent mission was for the US Space Force (USSF) in July. The mission, "It's a Little Chile Up Here," is a nod to the beloved green chile of New Mexico, where the Space Test Program is based.

On September 27, 2021, Rocket Labs announced a new $24.35 million contract with the US Space Force's Space Systems Command (SSC) to develop the Neutron launch vehicle's upper stage. The agreement signifies Rocket Lab's commitment to becoming a launch provider for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program, which launches the United States' most critical missions. FedInvent expects to see more federally funded from Rocket Labs in the future.

The other IC patent application this week is 20210305315, "Coupled-Line Bus To Suppress Classical Crosstalk for Superconducting Qubits," a quantum computing invention. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) funded this work. If you follow the money, it will take you to the Army Research Office. 

Funding From the State

On Thursday, four patent applications received R&D funding from the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Texas.


Both the State of Texas; and the National Science Foundation (NSF), Directorate for Engineering (ENG), Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET) funded 20210299281, "Multiple Biomarkers Imaging for High Specificity." The inventor, Dr. Baohong Yuan is a Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Texas, Arlington.  

The invention described in the application provides a novel way of imaging cancer stem cells in a biological environment using near-infrared (NIR) ultrasound-switchable fluorescence microscopy (USFM) for simultaneous imaging of multiple biomarkers (SIMCB). Many malignant tumors contain tumor-initiating cells, known as cancer stem cells (CSCs). CSCs account for <1-3% of the overall cancer cells. CSCs are believed to function as the seeds of malignant tumors and have been observed to self-renew. If even small amounts of CSCs are unintentionally left during surgery or other treatments, the probability of cancer relapse is high. Dr. Yuan's technology supports simultaneously image multiple biomarkers of CSCs to differentiate CSCs from non-CSCs specifically.

On November 16, 2016, Dr. Yuan and the University of Texas received a $900,000 grant from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

Texans voted in 2007 to create the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and to invest $3 billion in the state's unprecedented fight against cancer. On November 5, 2019, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to continue CPRIT's work and invest an additional $3 billion for finding and funding the best cancer research and prevention opportunities in the state. CPRIT is now a $6 billion, 20-year initiative – the largest state cancer research investment in the history of the United States and the second-largest cancer research and prevention program in the world. 

CPRIT accepts applications and awards grants for a wide variety of innovative cancer-related research and product development and the delivery of evidence-based cancer prevention programs and services by public and private entities located in Texas.


This Thursday, three patents funded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the State of Texas are in the mix.  

20210298946 — "Device For Securing Additional Devices in Any Eye Without Interfering with Vision"  

20210298947 — "Method For Securing Additional Devices in Any Eye Without Interfering with Vision"  

20210302751 —"Reversible Earpiece, Head-Mounted Device with Reversible Earpiece and Related Method"

The assignee, the eponymous company Brockman-Hastings LLC is located at the University of Kentucky Advanced Science & Technology Commercialization Center, better known as ASTeCC. ASTeCC is the UK's premier entrepreneurial ecosystem business incubator that encourages early-stage, high-technological, start-up company growth, leading to economic development opportunities for the Commonwealth. ASTeCC is home to faculty labs for research with commercialization potential, and shared-use facilities for the entire campus. The 80,000 sq. ft., $17 million building project was funded by the Economic Development Administration and the Small Business Administration.

Brockman-Hastings LLC also received two significant SBIR grants totaling $1,6 million from the NIH National Eye Institute earlier in the company's history.

Taxpayer funding comes in many forms. 

Patent Applications By The Numbers

On Thursday, September 30, 2021, USPTO published 9,011 pre-grant patent applications. One hundred sixty-one (161) of those applications benefitted from taxpayer funding. One hundred fifty-two (152) applications contain government interest statements. Twenty-one (21) applications have a federal government agency as an assignee or applicant. These patents have 184 funding references to federal agencies.

The 161 applications are the work of 558 inventors. The 537 American inventors come from 33 states and the District of Columbia. This week more than half of the inventors on the applications are from Massachusetts. The 21 foreign inventors come from 10 countries.

Colleges and universities, the HERD, were applicants or assignees on 108 patent applications. There were no Bayh-Dole Scofflaws on Thursday, an unusual occurrence.

Patent Application Count By Department

That’s this week’s FedInvent patent applications update.

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Thanks for reading FedInvent. Have a great weekend. See you on Wednesday for the FedInvent report on Tuesday’s patent drop and our latest prognostications on the federal innovation ecosphere. 


The FedInvent Team 

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