Using lasers to keep a UAV in the air indefinitely

We've covered this before, but Hackaday has a good update on the latest ground-based power techniques:

Lasers can no be used to keep a UAV in the air indefinitely. The trick is to add an array of photovoltaic cells specifically tuned to an IR laser’s wavelength. A ground system then directs a high-intensity laser beam onto the aircraft’s cell array to transfer energy while in flight.

After the break you can catch a video from a trade show where a Lockheed Martin employee describes the successful testing of such a system. But there’s a lot more information available in the white paper (PDF) which Laser Motive has released. They’re the folks behind the technology who have teamed up with LM to implement the system. The laser unit on the ground can track a UAV visually, but there is also a method of using GPS coordinates to do so in the case of overcast skies.

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Comment by Adam Scriven on September 27, 2012 at 4:05pm

First thing I thought of was:

Blindly beam a laser into the sky at "gps coordinates", what can go wrong!

Seems like a cool project tho!

Comment by Shyam Balasubramanian on September 27, 2012 at 4:59pm

Great work! When I heard of this idea, I said to myself, 'O gosh, just if I had a thought about this idea a year back, I would have been famous!

Comment by Crashpilot1000 on September 27, 2012 at 10:03pm

Yeah, lockheed is so innovative......

they took/bought the idea here:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2010/11/03/laser-powere...

I think the range of possibilities of a laser powered system is very limited unless you keep flying in the desert. I doubt the advantage in military applications. Why not simply use 2 drones with hybrid motors? One in the air, travelling on gas to the objective, then turning on battery mode for quiet observation - the other one will take the next shift while the first one gets refueled etc. So infinite surveillance-time without fancy lasershow. I think there are too many drawbacks of a laserpower system to become practical.

So long

Kraut Rob

Comment by Jack Crossfire on September 27, 2012 at 10:26pm

As long as no airliners are around the laser.

Comment by Manfred Dickgiesser on September 28, 2012 at 12:53am
Comment by Crashpilot1000 on September 28, 2012 at 9:49am

Good idea! It would also do some savings on the "enemies" electricity bill !

Comment by John Wolf on September 28, 2012 at 9:43pm

I will admit im new here, but the first question i have to pose is "what happens with bad weather or when an object is in the way, having multiple lasers would help, but then the output absorbtion rates would be astoundingly high,

and with all things that go up, they must come down, you still have to do work on a machine to keep it going for a long period, thats all my 2 pennies on the subject, it is a good basic idea, but it will be costly and ineffective in my point of view, ive been to the desert, it never goes how you think it will once from the lab to the field, and yes.. i know my spelling sucks, lol,

Comment by iangl on September 29, 2012 at 5:21am

I think this cannot be viable.

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