NavELite – A History

We recently started talking to a really cool company called NavELite. They came highly recommended by some mutual friends. They sent us this great company history as background for a story but we thought it was so good that we should run it as is. Read this tonight. It will come in handy tomorrow.

NavELite, LLC
A Company History
When Survival Counts!!

Who We Are
NavELite is a Florida Limited Liability Company established in October 2010. The NavELite Backlit Magnetic Compass (BLMC) was invented and patented by two Special Operation Soldiers (Carroll and Andy) during the onset of the Global War on Terror.

Working in a classified military unit environment, Carroll and Andy often times created their own kit in order to meet the ever-changing unique mission requirements. Inventing gear was a common occurrence within the depth of the chambers inside the guarded compound. Typically, unit members would conceptualize and sometimes build prototypes of specific gear requirements that would come to light. If there was a need to produce the gear, the concept would be fielded out to industry to patent and manufacture meeting the specific end-user requirements.

After 9/11, both Carroll and Andy were a part of the first waves of Special Operations Soldiers to deploy to Afghanistan. Combat operations underscored the need for a reliable backlit compass during critical missions for fast and reliable reference of cardinal directions for tasks such several tasks including Close Air Support (CAS), adjacent unit coordination, and SATCOM antenna orientation. Digital watch compasses had just begun to become popular and the unit purchased several for field use. The ability to have an Indiglo type backlight allowing nighttime or low-light direction finding without having to use a flashlight was major enhancement to previously fielded wrist compasses. Operators quickly noted the deficiencies with using a digital watch compass which included depleted batteries rendering the device completely useless and the frequent need to recalibrate the compass involving a cumbersome process many times at the worst possible moments. Having a new taste for an on-demand backlight for a wrist worn navigational compass created a demand for a reliable backlit magnetic style version. Research quickly outlined a void for such an item.

Seeing a need for such a simple device, Carroll and Andy set out to invent and ultimately patent the NavELite backlit magnetic wrist-worn compass.

Magnetic Compass technology has been around for thousands of years.
“The magnetic compass was invented as a device for divination as early as the Chinese Han Dynasty, and was used “in the search for gems and the selection of sites for houses.” The compass was used in Song Dynasty China by the military for navigational orienteering by 1040-1044, and was used for maritime navigation by 1117. The use of a compass is recorded in Western Europe between 1187 and 1202 and in Persia in 1232. The dry compass was invented in Europe around 1300. This was supplanted in the early 20th century by the liquid-filled magnetic compass.

The first compasses were made of lodestone, a naturally magnetized ore of iron. Ancient Chinese people found that if a lodestone was suspended so it could turn freely, it would always point in the same direction, toward the magnetic poles. Early compasses were used for geomancy “in the search for gems and the selection of sites for houses,” but were later adapted for navigation during the Song Dynasty in the 11th century. Later compasses were made of iron needles, magnetized by stroking them with a lodestone.” (contributions)

Improvements to the basic concept of a magnetic compass have been on-going since its invention. The needle is magnetized and drawn into alignments with the Earth’s magnetic field. Magnetically sensitive instruments, such as a compass, must be housed or mounted in such a way as to prevent magnetically active components, for example screws or other metallic components, from interfering with the sensitive compass needle. The amount of magnetic interference generally increases with the size and proximity of a metallic part to the compass needle. This problem has largely been resolved through the use of plastics as housing for magnetically sensitive instruments. For example, compasses can be housed entirely within a plastic case and either mounted a distance away from any metallic object, or in the case of a hand-held compass, be held away from metallic objects.

Conventional lighting sources and the electrical wiring associated with them are known to radiate electromagnetic (EM) energy. This EM energy field will affect the operation and orientation of a compass needle, thereby providing an inaccurate directional heading. Incandescent bulbs and un-insulated copper wire are notorious for emitting EM fields. Generally, the interference caused by an EM energy field radiated from a small incandescent light only produces small perturbations in the compass reading. Although either of the two aforementioned compass illumination schemes may be employed in recreational compasses with a relative loss of compass accuracy which does not materially affect the casual user, for this requirement, a higher degree of accuracy in compass readings is required and the interference from incandescent bulbs and wiring becomes a significant factor in compass error. An error of a few seconds of a degree, over tens of miles, can result in significantly missing a target location.
The requirement: provide illumination to a magnetic compass or other magnetically sensitive instrument without interfering with the operation of the instrument – more particularly, provide a source of illumination that produces little or no electromagnetic radiation. Carroll and Andy also knew that hand held compasses were used for more than just the immediate conflict they were facing. They were commonly used in dense forests or jungles, or in caves where ambient light, particularly at night, is not sufficient to see the needle. There have been many attempts in the prior art to provide illumination for a compass. However, due to the aforementioned facts that electronic components, such as incandescent bulbs, are incorporated into the instrument, their magnetic field will interfere with the instrument’s reading. This was likely the reason a backlit magnetic type wrist model compass has yet to make a debut.

Carroll and Andy discovered that the use of another dated technology, the Electroluminescent Panel (EL Panel), when used with a magnetic compass would provide adequate illumination without the unwanted negative effects to the needle. Electroluminescent materials were first seen in commercial use in the early 1960 by Chrysler Corporation. Electroluminescent thin film panels contain material that emits light through a chemical reaction caused by a minute electric current. By designing the BLMC in such a way as to position the battery and electrical components on the underside of the operator’s wrist and using a flexible type circuit to feed the EL Panel located under the compass face on the top side of the operator’s wrist, the prototype build proved a success.
Any invention derived by a soldier who is on active duty whether on or off duty belongs to the U.S. Government. Carroll convinced Andy that this invention was one that they should go after. Andy agreed that they would give this one a try but if it did not pan out, no more time would be spent pursuing such efforts. The GWOT levied heavy demands on time allowed to work on such personal matters and after almost 12 months of paperwork and waiting, Andy and Carroll were successful in their use of a military attorney to secure the release of patentability rights for the BLMC concept. Inexperience in the commercial and industrial markets brought to light the need for enlisting the help of a proven company executive. Carroll and Andy asked John Price to come on board to provide the sales, marketing, manufacturing and executive expertise required to build a company capable of designing, manufacturing and bringing to market such a line of products.

Within the few years following, the team hired a patent attorney and was eventually awarded the patent for their invention. After a successful proposal to the US Government in 2010, a contract was awarded to design and build the first 200 prototype NavELite compasses. The compass design and build process was challenging. Realizing the specific user requirements, initial thoughts of using a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) liquid-filled compass housing and needle were soon shattered. This caused more than 90% of the NavELite compass components to be manufactured from scratch.

The final government contract completion and subsequent delivery of 200 prototypes was completed in November 2011. Prototype NavELite compass were immediately shipped to Special Operation Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and to training locations around the globe. Operational feedback was positive in every case. Many surveys recommended enhancements, the most prevalent of which was to create a waterproof model. NavELite is taking all recommendations and working through enhancements. The first line of NavELite compasses will boast improved durability, a longer wrist strap (for users wearing gloves), and a double-vacuum sealed compass housing (to prevent bubbles forming in the liquid filled compass housing).

Although some BLMC parts are manufactured in other countries, more than 51% of production costs are derived in the United States allowing us to proudly boast a Made in the USA product. Future product lines will include product enhanced models of the existing BLMC, backlit magnetic dive model compasses, navigational courseware, and other proprietary product initiatives.

The NavELite product launch is just occurring. We have received numerous pre-order sales from a wide range of customer verticals including: military, law enforcement agencies, other government entities, hunters, fisherman, backpackers, orienteering enthusiasts, foreign governments, divers and many others.

Mission Statement
NavELite will become the leading global provider of backlit magnetic compasses.

NavELite envisions a world where all people have understanding and confidence in finding direction through navigational wisdom and products.

We are a company established to ensure our customers have access to the very best navigational products and information to successfully show them the direction they seek. Our products provide accurate navigational directions to our customers when survival counts.



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