Researchers build a wirelessly powered drone that can fly forever

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Now drones never need to “sleep” again.

 

Quadcopter drones are great for all kind of things from filming to delivering small, sometimes dubious, packages but every drone, irrespective of whether it’s a hobbyists DJI drone or a US military MQ-9 Reaper, is limited by its battery life. There are all kinds of potential solutions to this problem that range from fuel cell powered drones to charging nests on streetlights and and rooftops, like those proposed by Amazon.

 

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In a world where wireless power continues to make great advances it makes sense that one day drone makers would find a way to harness it. And that’s just what a team based at Imperial College in London has managed to do – albeit on a small scale, for now, and conceivably there’s no reason why wirelessly powered drones couldn’t fly forever – or at least until their rotors gave out.

The drone was developed by Dr. Sam Aldhaher who’s explained his work in an academic paper. In Aldhahers experiment the battery in his small quadcopter drone has been replaced with a coil of copper foil tape which acts as a receiver for the electromagnetic waves that are being put out by the charging plate that the drone is flying over – the concept isn’t all too disimilar to the set up that mobile phone manufacturers and gadget enthusiasts use to power their smart phones, except for the fact that in this set up the drone, as you can see from the video below, is flying.

 

 

It’s a cool trick but not entirely practical, after all wireless power only works reliably over very small distances – but that range is gradually improving with new systems coming out that can wirelessly charge devices from over 15 feet away. So until the point when wireless power gets much, much better it looks like this little flying demonstration will be restricted to the lab – or to your desk. One day though that drone that’s spying on you won’t need to go off to recharge its batteries, or sleep, and then, finally we’ll all welcome in the 247 surveillance society, but then to offset that at least we can combine that with 247 drone donut deliveries. Life’s not all bad…

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