16th July 2012
A silent drone flown by U.S. Special Forces could stay in the air forever, in theory, if power were being beamed to it from a laser on the ground. That exciting possibility came up during an indoor flight test showing how a laser could power a Stalker drone for 48 hours.
The electric version of LockheedMartin’s Stalker has a battery that usually lasts just two hours, but in the test, a laser power system wirelessly recharged a drone battery in midair for 24 times as long. Such a system, if proven in actual outdoor flights, could give U.S. Special Forces a steady robot friend in the sky to watch for targets or approaching enemies.
“This test is one of the final steps in bringing laser-powered flight to the field,” said Tom Nugent, president of LaserMotive, which made the laser power system used in the test. “By enabling in-flight recharging, this system will ultimately extend capabilities, improve endurance and enable new missions for electric aircraft.”