London-based electrical engineering researcher Dr. Samer Aldhaher recently posted a video demonstrating what could be the future of drone technology. The small drone you’re about to see has one distinguishing feature – it’s not carrying a battery.
While you may have seen examples of “wireless” charging that involve putting a phone on a pad or the like, powering drones requires a charging system that can track and target them from further away. Long-range wireless power transmission can be achieved by a few different technological approaches, including focused electromagnetic fields (such as microwaves) and lasers.
This is not entirely new technology. One company working on wireless drone power, Global Energy Transmission, this summer showcased a one-hour continuous flight by a large tethered drone, which they say was powered entirely wirelessly.
One form of long-range wireless power is actually close to market, though it doesn’t involve drones—the Cota wireless charger has a range of ten feet.
In the further future, long-distance wireless power transmission could allow for farming solar power from orbit.
But in the nearer term, the implications of wireless power for aerial drones could be major. It’s already feasible to achieve long-term flight with large, winged drones powered by solar energy, suggesting that they could someday take over some functions from orbital satellites.