The Next Step For Drone Technology

Innovation December 16, 2016

You cannot have missed the incredible rise in the attention on drone technology as of late. Yet as exciting as existing drones are at the moment, they all share one hard to overlook shortcoming. That of flight time. As you probably know, the overwhelming majority of the existing drones on the market make use of lithium ion battery technology. While these batteries are notable for their light weight and ability to sustain multiple recharges, the shortcoming is the battery life itself.

Perhaps you are already aware that the most common drones on the market have but a 20 minute or less runtime due to the necessity to either land the drone and swap out the battery or ground the drone until the battery can be recharged. But what if these drones could actually be recharged in flight?

Actually that concept is not so far fetched as you might first think. As a matter of fact, the technique that could in fact make this sort of thing a reality was first proposed over 100 years ago by the prolific inventor widely acknowledged as an electrical genius Nikola Tesla. For the record, the technique is referred to as inductive coupling. You may recall from your High School or College Physics classes that inductive coupling allows for the wireless exchange of power.

You may be interested to learn that researchers at the esteemed Imperial College London are engaged in cutting edge studies with this inductive coupling technology. Take a look at the comments from one of the researchers: “There are a number of scenarios where wirelessly transferring power could improve drone technology. One option could see a ground support vehicle being used as a mobile charging station where drones could hover over it and recharge, never having to leave the air.” Note that comment was from none other than Dr. Samer Aldaher from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Naturally, there are quite a number of other applications that could make use of this inductive coupling charging technology. Professor Paul Mitcheson put it this way: “Imagine using a drone to wireless transmit power to sensors on such things as bridges to monitor their structural integrity”. Yet another application could show up in the form of implantable medical devices that could be recharged.

As you can plainly see from the above, the latest research on a technology first proposed more than 100 years ago could have profound implications today.


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