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Flying Drones Could Soon Recharge While Airborne With New Technology

Airborne drones recharging wirelessly.

Researchers at Imperial College London have demonstrated a method for transferring power to an airborne drone while it is in flight.

Credit: Imperial College London

Imperial College London (ICL) researchers have demonstrated a highly efficient method for wirelessly transferring power to a drone while it is flying, a breakthrough which they say could enable flying drones to stay airborne indefinitely by simply hovering over a ground support vehicle to recharge.

The technology relies on inductive coupling, a concept initially demonstrated by Nikola Tesla more than 100 years ago. Inductive coupling involves two copper coils tuned to one another, enabling the wireless exchange of power at a certain frequency.

The ICL researchers demonstrated their inductive coupling approach using an off-the-shelf quadcopter drone. They altered the drone's electronics, removed its battery, and made a copper foil ring that acts as a receiving antenna encircling the drone's casing. On the ground, the researchers created a transmitter device from a circuit board and connected it to a power source, producing a magnetic field. The drone's electronics were tuned to the frequency of the magnetic field so an alternating current voltage is induced in the receiving antenna and the drone's electronics convert it into a direct current voltage, which powers the system.

"There are a number of scenarios where wirelessly transferring power could improve drone technology," says ICL researcher Samer Aldhaher.

From Imperial College London
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