Imagine seeing laser beams lighting the dark sky. What could it be? It is a wireless laser recharging technology for electric airplanes without the need of power lines and power transmission infrastructures.
LaserMotive, a Seattle-based company has been in collaboration with Lockheed Martin to recharge electric aircraft in flight using laser beams that charge batteries wirelessly. The latest testing done indoors was a huge success. If this wireless technology will work as well in the field, it has the potential to revolutionize electric vehicles as well as robotic systems.
The immediate aim of Lockheed’s involvement in wireless charging was the creation of an infinite-flight drone. Initial testing was done on a Stalker UAS, an unmanned aerial surveillance drone that was first used by the military in 2006.
The test was conducted in a wind tunnel, and it extended the Stalker’s flight time to 48 hours, which was an improvement of around 2400 percent. As reported by Tom Nugent, LaserMotive president, the flight could have extended for longer. It was halted after the system surpassed its expected endurance limit. The aircraft’s battery was found to have more energy at the end of the flight than it had at the start. The next stage will be field test outdoors.
The wireless technology of LaserMotive is similar to solar power arrays. Instead of sunlight, a high intensity beam strikes the photovoltaic cells that convert the light to electricity. The beam could travel through a vacuum or fiber optic cable as well as plain air to strike the PV cells.
The electricity needed to generate the laser beam could be provided by fossil fuels or renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal or hydropower. The system could also be made flexible by designing mobile or transportable transmitters.
LaserMotive’s technology can have possible applications in robotics as well. Robotic devices are common in factories and warehouses. They are also being considered for applications in the health care field and other hazardous jobs. A wireless recharging system will offer benefits such as the elimination of down time as well as cord-free and flexible performance.