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September 15, 2010

LaserMotive : Making Laser Power UAVs

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Laser weapons can down an airplane, but lasers can also keep aircraft in the air. As explained in the following paper from LaserMotive company, lasers can transmit power to UAVs in flight, giving them potentially unlimited endurance aloft. Silent, refueling-free laser-electric UAVs are practical with current technology and could be developed and deployed quickly.

Laser Power for UAVs

LaserMotive is a Seattle-based company developing laser power beaming systems to transmit electricity without wires, for applications where wires are either cost prohibitive or physically impractical (electrical power lines cost 20 000 USD or more per mile for low power residential lines, and 250 000 USD or more per mile for high-voltage transmission lines). This company won 900 000 USD in the NASA-sponsored Power Beaming Challenge in 2009 (Level 1, part of the Space Elevator Games).

LaserMotive believes in laser power beaming as a “powerful” solution for a variety of applications, from powering unmanned aerial vehicles to launching rockets via laser power to beaming limitless solar energy from space to the Earth.

State of art of this technology is at the demonstrator state (small laser-powered helicopter that climbed a 900-meter cable), but I really hope this will be the beginning of space elevator applications as dreamed by Arthur C. Clarke in The Fountains of Paradise (1978).


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