lasers with drone

Using lasers to keep drones aloft

Even as drone technology advances, power constraints limit the amount of equipment unmanned systems can carry as well as the time they can stay in the air.

Some drone systems, like the Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications drone from CyPhy Works, deliver power through a tether to keep a small drone aloft for an entire week. The Army, however, is developing a system to supply power through a laser, according to reporting from the New Scientist.

The drone would be outfitted with a photovoltaic cell that could take the light beam from the laser and turn it into electricity. The Army has still to determine how to get the benefits of photovoltaics without the extreme heat damaging the drone, according to Futurism.

The system is being developed by the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center based in Maryland. The Army wants to be able to use a laser to power a drone on the ground by 2019 and then in flight by 2020.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is also experimenting with beaming power to drones. It is working with Silent Falcon UAS Technologies' long-range unmanned aircraft system to prove the feasibility of recharging an electric powered UAS while in flight using a laser light source.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.


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