NASA financed LaserMotive demonstrated its capability to wirelessly power unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in cooperation with Ascending Technologies exactly 5 years ago.
Legendary long term UAV flight
For this purpose LaserMotive’s receiver technology had been put on an AscTec Pelican. At 7:37 the AscTec Pelican took off in the Future of Flight Museum in Everett near Seattle, USA on 27th October 2010. With only a 5-minute battery on-board, the Pelican flew for nearly twelve and a half hours and could have stayed airborne – theoretically forever!
In detail: 12 hours 26 minutes and 56.9 seconds. This long-term micro-copter flight world record is unmatched to date.
Further successful UAV endurance tests
Another over 48 hours flight with a fixed-wing Lockheed Martin Stalker UAS has been performed successfully as well in 2012.
And the ETH Zurich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich) performed a further 81 hour endurance world record flight in cooperation with its AtlantikSolar 2 UAV developed within the EU-funded research projects ICARUS and SHERPA. The video shows the AtlantikSolar 2 UAV during its continuous flight of 81.5 hours and 2,316 kilometres distance. Of course flight times like these have great prospects in civil applications like search-and-rescue or industrial inspection applications.
Furthermore, no other records are known for rotary-winged / multi-rotor micro VTOLs.
UAV power links per power beaming
Users of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have a strong desire to improve their flight endurance, which is limited by on-board energy storage. LaserMotive’s UAV Power Link is an enabling technology, freeing UAVs from any need to land and recharge their batteries.
The Power Link uses Power Beaming to send a beam of light from a ground station to a receiver on the UAV, where the light is converted into electricity for use on the UAV.
Proud representatives (from left to right): Dr. Jordin Kare, Chief Scientist and co-founder, Laser Motive, Thomas Nugent, President and co-founder, Laser Motive, Michael Achtelik, CEO and co-founder, Ascending Technologies, Jan Stumpf, CEO and co-founder, Ascending Technologies, David Bashford, Vice President of Operations, Laser Motive.
LaserMotive is a Seattle-based company developing wireless power delivery systems using laser beams to transmit electricity without wires, for applications where wires are either cost prohibitive or physically impractical. The company was launched after winning the 2009 NASA Centennial Challenges Power Beaming Challenge and taking home the Level 1 prize.
What is UAV power beaming?