Lockheed Martin has successfully concluded testing the transfer of electric power to UAVs via laser beams. This technology could potentially end UAS dependency on battery life expectancy
By Arie Egozi
US fighter aircraft manufacturers are delving deeper into the field of unmanned*air systems (UASs). Lockheed Martin, the producer of the F-16 and F-35 fighter aircraft, is investing in the development of a method for transferring electric power to UASs through the use of lasers, in order to provide them with a very long endurance period.
As previously reported by IsraelDefense, Boeing, the manufacturer of the F-15 and F-18 fighter aircraft, signed a cooperation agreement with Israel's Elbit Systems last week, for cooperating in the field of UASs. Lockheed Martin, the competing US aircraft manufacturer, recently carried out a test in the framework of the flight of a small UAS. In its framework, electric energy was transferred to the UAS's engine through the use of a directed laser beam.
The UAS has an endurance of only two hours, yet it stayed aloft for approximately 48 hours in the framework of the test. According to the US aircraft manufacturer, the test was stopped after 48 hours only because the duration of the flight had considerably surpassed what was initially planned. The test was conducted within a wind tunnel, and now another test is being planned for an ordinary flight.
Many companies around the world are attempting to use focused, directed lasers in order to transfer energy to UASs and satellites. The method, known as Laser Beaming, will allow these instruments to operate in a near unlimited capacity, as they will no longer depend on the lifespans of batteries.
To me, this has even more potential for civilian market.
Imagine no more power lines. No more lines getting knocked down by trees during storms, no more high cost of burying powerlines etc...
I was thinking about that two but there's at least a few key questions that would have to be addressed that with the wrong answer could relegate it to not being useful for the next few decades in that role. Efficiency is really crucial in my mind, if they managed to do this in such a fashion that it was say half as efficient as conventional transmission now improvements in the technology could bring it up to par and perhaps push it beyond, if we're starting a whole lot less then that then the losses and the efforts to correct those losses will probably keep this technology out of reach in that role for quite some time. Cost is another major factor, while underground transmission may be talked about as expensive I suspect that this is primarily just in comparison to basic poles which for the distance covered is very cheap, lasers and receivers probably aren't cheap either though here the advantages of mass production will have an easier time bringing costs down if the efficiency argument is compelling enough.
What would be extra cool is if they managed to find a way that was significantly better then standard transmission for efficiency and allow for the transmission of power from more distant sources at a lesser loss.