LaserMotive, a company that was awarded $900,000 last year by NASA for powering robots wirelessly through a laser, now comes up with another laser-powered gadget: a helicopter. They kept the solar-powered toy hovering for six hours, until the brush motors, not designed to run that long, burned out.
The 22 grams helicopter was equipped with a solar cell that converted 50 percent of the energy provided by a 7 centimeters in diameter laser beam. The demonstration took place in Colorado, at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems Conference. The laser beam they used was in the near-infrared range, and does not harm human eyes.
Tom Nugent, LaserMotive CEO, said the system could be scaled up to serve “anything anybody is interested in.” The system is designed to mainly serve unmanned vehicles with or without batteries and can provide a recharge them without having them land.
Another applications that such lasers could have would be lifting objects into outer space with the energy provided from Earth. Of course, one can think of wireless on-the-go recharging of electric car batteries, or even higher-power applications, such as overseas passenger flights in electric airplanes.
The only ingredient that should now pose issues to the builders of such systems could be the solar panels and the laser’s frequency. At higher altitudes you’d need much more power and thus higher efficiencies from the solar panel, because the losses will also be scaled up.