The invention of a technology for charging drones and electric aircraft in full flight with a laser

one drone is a small on-board unmanned aircraft, remotely controlled or programmed, which can be monitored if equipped with a camera. This definition implies that the device is battery powered and needs to be charged regularly. That could all change with the announcement by a team of researchers from Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xianyang, China. The Chinese team just did the demonstration of a drone that never has to land to charge. He can charge himself remotely via an invention of the team. How is it possible ? We explain everything to you!

The new Chinese drone, how does it work?

This means the system invented by the researchers The drone never has to landbecause it is equipped with a remote loading system that delivers energy via a laser adaptive ground target tracking. In other words, the drone uses a photoelectric converter located on its base that captures the laser’s energy. So the system allows the “pilot” to transfer power wirelessly to the drone, but with less efficiency compared to traditional charging. Depending on the power of the laser, the researchers state a recharging efficiency of 50 to 85%. The photoelectric converter extracts energy from the laser and works on the same principle as a solar panel. The drone can then remain in flight indefinitely without ever coming down to charge.

A runway for charging electric planes and drones mid-flight. Copyright: Northwestern Polytechnical University / China Daily

How did you achieve this result?

The researchers of NPU declare that they have developed a intelligent visual tracking algorithm”. This algorithm allows them to keep the laser beam on the drone. They also invented an adaptive beamforming system able to compensate for changes in atmospheric density. The system can too recognize obstacles and adjust the beam power to keep the drone charged during flight.

To test their new technology, they used a small quadcopter and proved that the drone possibly worked day and night at an altitude of about 10 m. Chinese technology is paving the way for this type of in-flight charging at higher altitudes and could in the future make it possible to charge aircraft or other devices without the need for a landing. At the moment it is a laboratory prototype and nobody knows if it will one day be commercialized or if it will receive approval from the authorities, which are often reluctant to use it airspace.

The research team tested the drone indoors and outdoors, in daylight and artificial light.
The research team tested the drone indoors and outdoors, in daylight and artificial light. Copyright: Northwestern Polytechnical University / China Daily

A technique that was already presented in 2012

Admittedly, the Chinese drone is a technological innovation, but it is not a recent invention. The Washington-based company PowerLight, formerly known as the, had already introduced the first rechargeable flying drone LaserMotifs. A system of Wireless charging Something similar was presented in 2012. The demonstration proved that the drone can fly for 48 hours in an outdoor wind tunnel that can propel it up to a range of 600m. For its part, PowerLight confirms this after 10 years of research and development The American onboard charging system could be released soon. This duel between China and the United States seems to be happening on all fronts, but it’s pretty good news. During this competition, technologies make great advances!

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