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DARPA Seeking Wireless In-Flight Drone Recharging

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a request for information (RFI) for any technology or solution that enables aircraft tankers to recharge drones in-flight.

According to the agency, the tech must fit on existing US Air Force KC-46 and KC-135 refueling tankers and deliver 100 kilowatts of power.

The recharging must also be wireless, so the solution should allow tankers to transfer energy through laser energy beam technologies.

DARPA added that the defense department has already explored wireless energy transfer for its unmanned systems.

“This Airborne Energy Well is a potential component of a more expansive energy web of power generation, transfer relays, and receiving solutions, enabling the Department of Defense to dynamically allocate energy resources to more flexibly deliver military effects,” the RFI states.

Interested firms must submit their responses to the RFI by July 11, 2022.

Once developed and deployed, the tech is expected to be a “force multiplier,” increasing the speed, range, lethality, flexibility, and versatility of drones.

Further Details

DARPA further explained that the drone-charging tech must include thermal control to support operations in mid-air.

Firms should also be able to provide an initial approximation of the amount of energy that the tech could generate.

Additionally, the equipment must be capable of beamforming laser energy in remote locations.

The agency requires the tech to have a readiness level of six or higher, so it should have been successfully demonstrated under realistic conditions.

KC-46
US Air Force’s KC-46 refueling aircraft. Photo: US Army
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