One of the most interesting uses for drones is often overlooked: producing energy.
Yes, drones can produce energy. So much so that companies like Google, Shell and E.ON bet on drones to become major producers of energy in the not-too-distant future.
How do drones produce energy?
A fully autonomous plane-like drone (like the one pictured above) is attached to a tether and is flown in the wind like a kite:
The drone produces wind energy either with mini-wind turbines mounted on the drone (first picture) or simply by pulling on the tether and turning a generator on the ground (pictures two and three). More details here.
The advantages of such Wind Drones over wind turbines? They can be built with only 10% of the material needed for a wind turbine. More importantly, Wind Drones can reach the much stronger and steadier high-altitude winds that are literally out of reach of wind turbines.
Wind Drones bring the digital revolution to the energy market, the largest market of the world.
The result could not only be a potential "magic solution" (Bill Gates) for our energy and climate problem. The result could be the commercially most important drone application, the "Trillion Dollar Drone".
Most companies in the field of Airborne Wind Energy build rather large prototypes with industry grade components. We at Daidalos Capital were in addition interested in rapid and cheap prototyping and supported University of Bonn in building a mini Wind Drone prototype out of a standard model plane, a Pixhawk and modifed ArduPlane software.
The project was a success and we managed to prove controlled tethered flight with a prototype costing less than USD 1.000 in material costs.
More details on the ArduPlane project will be available soon.
Learn more about Wind Drones and their advantages over wind turbines here: “Producing Energy with … Drones?!”.