The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has invested $225,000 in a Seattle-based startup to develop a wireless power transmitter for in-flight unmanned aerial vehicles.
The startup, Electric Sky, is building the Whisper Beam transmitter, in which “radio waves self-focus at the receiver, enabling the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) to draw kilowatts of power in all weather.”
Based on ‘Whispering Gallery’ Concept
Company CEO Robert Millman explained that it is akin to the concept of a whispering gallery, where “a single listener across the (circular) room can hear the speaker but no one else can, not even people standing directly between the speaker and listener. The sound is too weak for them to hear.”
Unlike existing wireless power systems for UAVs, “which start strong but weaken as they travel, Whisper Beam technology does the opposite, starting weak and getting stronger near the receiver.”
According to Whisper Beam inventor Jeff Greason, the technology can make long-distance power transmission more affordable by reducing the cost of the “ground transmitter and the size of the vehicle’s onboard receiver.” He adds that the technology is compatible with a range of aircraft running on “battery-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and hybrid.”
Electric Sky is building the system to power a swarm of drones. Once the demonstrator is ready, it will run the system through a series of experiments that will yield essential data to scale up the system, making it capable of transmitting more power at longer distances.