Home Radio waves Electric Sky develops new wireless technology to remotely power drone flights

Electric Sky develops new wireless technology to remotely power drone flights



Seattle-based Electric Sky has started building the world’s first “Whisper Beam” transmitter to wirelessly power in-flight drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), with funding from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Previous wireless charging for drones relied on microwaves and lasers, which start off strong but weaken as they travel a distance. The Whisper Beam aims to do the opposite and would become louder as a receiver approaches, company CEO Robert Millman said. Electric Sky would have used a transmitter that sends out radio waves which then focus on the receiver, in this case, the drone.

“Whisper Beam technology is the electromagnetic equivalent of a whisper gallery” said Robert Millman, CEO of Electric Sky. “In a gallery of whispers, only one listener across the room can hear the speaker, but no one else can, not even the people standing directly between the speaker and the listener. The sound is too low for them to hear.

Thanks to Whisper Beam technology, the radio waves self-focus at the receiver, allowing the drone to draw kilowatts of power in any weather. The waves are weak everywhere else, even directly between the transmitter and the drone.

Long-distance power transmission is not impossible; it has never been economical. Greason says the new method reduces the cost of the ground transmitter and the size of the vehicle’s on-board receiver. The technology can be used on any aircraft using electric propulsion, whether powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.

“Whisper Beam technology is particularly useful in the energy-intensive phases of take-off and climb, allowing vehicle designers to meet other requirements to extend range, improve flight safety, reduce peak loads on batteries and shorten lead times on the ground. “ Greason added.

For the DARPA project, Electric Sky will explore adapting the new wireless architecture to power a swarm of drones. Working as part of DARPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, the company build and test a laboratory demonstrator capable of operating over short distances. These experiments will provide the data needed to go to higher power and longer distances, then adapt the transmitter to track drones in the sky.