Seattle area startup LaserMotive and defense giant Lockheed Martin today announced that they’ve successfully completed tests of a laser-based power system to keep an unmanned aircraft in flight for more than 48 hours.
Led by Tom Nugent, the former research director for LiftPort Group, and Dr. Jordin Kare, an expert on laser propulsion, LaserMotive is developing new laser-based methods to transmit electricity without wires. That ground-to-air recharging system could be a critical addition for the military aircraft, allowing them to stay in flight for extended periods of time in order to collect additional intelligence.
The recent tests, conducted in a wind tunnel with the Stalker Unmanned Aerial System, were cut short at 48 hours after meeting the initial goals of the team. Tom Koonce, program manager with the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, said that they were pleased with the results.
“Laser power holds real promise in extending the capabilities of Stalker,” he said. “A ground-to-air recharging system like this allows us to provide practically unlimited flight endurance to extend and expand the mission profiles that the Stalker vehicle can fulfill.”
The Stalker, described as a small and silent unmanned aircraft, has been used by U.S. Special Operations Forces since 2006.
Previously on GeekWire: LaserMotive beams up cash to transmit electricity without wires