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Power NASA Shark The Military Transportation Science Technology

UAV Helicopter Flies 12 Hours Charged By Laser 83

garymortimer writes "LaserMotive (who last year won $900,000 in the NASA Power Beaming Challenge, one of the levels of the 'Space Elevator Games') have teamed up with Germany's Ascending Technologies to create an indoor flight record for electrically powered multicopters. The flight took place at the Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo, WA. 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."
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UAV Helicopter Flies 12 Hours Charged By Laser

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  • Re:weight (Score:4, Informative)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @03:28AM (#34071364)
    What I find amazing is how much better RC helicopters have become in just a few short years. In the 1980's, they cost upwards of $1000 and were incredibly difficult to learn and fly. People would spend months just learning to hover a couple feet off the ground (no exaggeration). And the radios were so prone to interference, that could crash you at any time.

    Now, for $30 you can buy one that's much smaller, much lighter, yet much easier to fly (which is surprising since tiny craft are normally unstable). But the really small cheap ones fly for around 30 seconds. To fly for 12 hours isn't just a little better, it's a drastic improvement, about 100 times longer than even a hobby-quality helicopter.

    That said, the FAA tends to frown on shooting powerful lasers into the sky for fear of blinding pilots. Perhaps they wouldn't worry about that in a warzone; then again usually all the aircraft above a warzone are our own.

  • Re:Wireless Power? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 30, 2010 @04:05AM (#34071444)

    In the world of industry, made by companies few of us know exist, there exist sensors and low power chips that are powered by light sent through optical fibers.
    I know that's not the same thing as wireless, but I reckon for small devices, requiring small power, in environments incredibly hostile to wiring (fiber or wire), laser power+communication might be useful.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @04:12AM (#34071462)

    The max safe amount for a consumer laser pointer is in the 5-10mW range. Above that, serious and rather immediate damage can result from looking at it. Up in the range of 500mW they are dangerous to the point that reflected light can cause immediate eye damage. So you don't even have to look at the beam, just a specular refraction and still can get hurt. Also, this starts to get in to the "can set shit on fire" level.

    Now consider that a laptop power adapter is generally in the 50-100watt range. In terms of lasers that would be "CO2 laser that blasts through steel as though it were butter."

    To power anything more than a very trivial device, you'd have an unsafe level of laser power. Also it would be even worse than it sounds, because of course the receiver won't be 100% efficient.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @06:20AM (#34071852) Journal

    500mW is not dangerous. 500mW in a very small area is dangerous. For a laptop, the power receiving area could be quite large. Sunlight is approximately 1kW/m^2. Given a laptop area of about 0.05m^2 and a power consumption of 50W (100W is really high for a laptop, you'll be hard pressed to find one that uses more than 65W under full load and still counts as portable), that means that you'd need about the same amount of energy as sunlight to power it, with full efficiency.

    I didn't TRFA, but last time I checked laser power systems had a transmission loss of close to 98%, which makes them somewhat impractical for laptop use. I would like wireless power, but I wouldn't like it enough to pay the electricity bill from a 2.5kW laptop.

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @11:25AM (#34072904) Homepage

    Incidentally, this problem has been solved. Simply de-focus the beam at the sending end, and re-focus it at the receiver side (and do it with a diameter lens that nobody except godzilla has in their eyes - easy enough).

    The goal is to spread, say 100W, in a beam that has a surface area of, say 10cm2. Since the aperture of the eye has a surface area of about 10mm2, the power delivered into the retina if someone were to glue their eyeballs to the transmitter would be 100W * 10cm2 / 10mm2 = 1W (and the eye will immediately respond by lowering that surface area to less than 1mm2, making the total delivered power less than 0.1W, and obviously, even with your retina glued to the transmitter you won't get anywhere near 10% efficiency).

    Directly looking into the sun delivers about 2W to your retina (and will destroy it, but not immediately).

    This is a big problem for the "solar panel in space" technologies. But it's not much of a problem really. If you were to send down 100 GW over a square kilometer, anyone could walk over the receiver perfectly safely without any protection. The power from the satellite would be a factor 1 million less than the solar irradiation (so you could send it quite safely over 10 square meters as well if needed).

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson