Drones are no longer such impressive devices, as they have already entered the consumer market, with many models being available on various market segments – to say that there are even accessible models, in addition to professional ones. All these models, however, remain with a very big problem, which still does not have a clear solution: the duration of use on a single charge. But researchers at the University of Berkley suggest an ingenious solution: in-flight charging.
Like fighter jets, which can be charged in flight, engineers at the HiPeR lab at Berkley (High Performance Robotics) have developed a drone powering solution. Although the solution was obvious, it is amazing that there has been no such project so far.
The drone is provided with a landing platform at the top, which also includes magnetic contacts, capable of providing electricity transfer. Then a smaller drone, equipped with its own battery and another battery for power, can come in flight, land on the charging platform and provide extra power to the main drone. Thus, the life of a drone can be substantially extended during a single flight, significantly increasing its usefulness in some cases.
For example, drones that could be used for future parcel deliveries could travel much longer distances, while drones used for search or other surveillance might have more such charging stations on the route.
The prototype uses a 2.2 Ah battery for the main drone, which allows the four on-board engines to operate for 12 minutes. The secondary drone used for power includes a 1.5 Ah battery, in addition to its battery that gives it propulsion to reach the larger drone. Thus, the flight time is extended by about 5 minutes, using a single in-flight charge. However, the “flying” battery does not power the main battery, but allows the drone to use the battery directly; otherwise, the time for energy transfer would be too high.
HiPeR Lab Berkley researchers say they managed to power the drone to fly continuously for one hour using this method, five times more than it could do on its own.