Even as drone technology advances, power constraints limit the amount of equipment unmanned systems can carry, as well as the time they can stay in the air. Some drone systems, like the Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications drone from CyPhy Works, deliver power through a tether to keep a small drone aloft for an entire week. The Army, however, is developing a system to supply power through a laser, according to reporting from the New Scientist.
The drone would be outfitted with a photovoltaic cell that could take the light beam from the laser and turn it into electricity. The Army has still to determine how to get the benefits of photovoltaics without the extreme heat damaging the drone, according to Futurism. The system is being developed by the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center based in Maryland. The Army wants to be able to use a laser to power a drone on the ground by 2019 and then in flight by 2020.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is also experimenting with beaming power to drones. It is working with Silent Falcon Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Technologies' long-range unmanned aircraft system to prove the feasibility of recharging an electric powered UAS while in flight using a laser light source.