June 11, 2018

Five patents granted for Schulich graduate's work with satellites

Schulich alumnus granted an astonishing five patents based on the same unmodified PhD thesis that earned him his doctorate
Dr. Vyasaraj Guru Rao, PhD

As the bane of many a student, it’s not too often a university professor’s pop quiz gets credit for launching an entire career, never mind one that’s destined for outstanding achievement.

But having been granted an astonishing five patents based on the same unmodified PhD thesis that earned him his doctorate at Schulich School of Engineering, Dr. Vyasaraj Guru Rao, PhD is doing exactly that – and the India-based Senior Manager and GNSS Technologist  says it was Professor Gérard Lachapelle’s quiz that started it all.

“Frankly, when I started the research was struggling to get the research problem,” explains Rao, who works for Accord Software & Systems in Bangalore, India.

“But one quiz which Professor Lachapelle gave had a futuristic question, and my answer was on TTFF ( (Time To First Fix).  Subsequently, Professor Lachapelle and I thought why not pursue the same as my research problem?”

A vigorous path to PhD

It was a serendipitous quiz indeed, and within two years, Rao had written more than 10 papers and filed five patents on his TTFF theories, TTFF being the amount of time it takes a Global Navigation Satellite System receiver to estimate its position from a so-called “cold start”, when no internal parameters are available.

Two years after that timely quiz, Rao was defending his PhD based on his TTFF work, which proposes a signal be established at the satellite level.

In a breakthrough that could prove invaluable for military and strategic applications, Rao’s satellite signal research suggests cold start TTFF could be reduced to as little as a few seconds, whereas now it takes up to a nearly a minute to estimate position.

Five patents and high hopes for the future

Hence, an impressive five United States patents granted and high hopes of the system being employed in future satellite launches.

“It feels really great and at bottom of my heart, I feel I may have achieved something in life,” says Rao.

“If the patents are used in some end application, the feeling would be complete.”

Professor recalls student's ambition

Rao’s supervisor, Dr. Gérard Lachapelle, PhD clearly remembers his student’s extraordinary mix of knowledge, skills, dedication and persistence.

“Upon arrival, Vyasaraj described to me his ambitious research plans and schedule with one of the goals to develop innovative research that would lead to patents,” recalls Lachapelle, now a University of Calgary professor emeritus.

“While skeptical at first, I soon realized  that he was well on schedule to fully achieve his goals. An impressive individual in all aspects.”

Lachapelle says he perhaps shouldn’t have been surprised, given his previous experience with excellent students from Bangalore.

“I should have known, given the consistently outstanding engineering students from Bangalore myself and my colleagues in the PLAN ( Position Location and Navigation) Group had the chance to supervise over the years,” he says.