New Ground-Based Laser Can Extend Drone Flight Time IndefinitelyJuly 15, 2012
Lockheed Martin, one of America’s largest war profiteers, has demonstrated technology in partnership with LaserMotive which can extend the flight time of their “Stalker” drone by 2,400 percent using a ground-based laser and potentially allow the drone to stay in the air indefinitely.
With drones being used by the military in league with law enforcement and with the practice set to expand across United States, this could be a great way to keep surveillance on potential criminals around the clock, or just monitor traffic.
This technology, which admittedly sounds like pure science fiction, uses a proprietary method to wirelessly transfer energy via laser light over long distances, in this case from the ground to the Stalker as it flies.
The Stalker is a relatively small electrically-powered unmanned aerial system (UAS) which runs on batteries now extended by over 48 hours.
It is launched by hand, powered by a propeller and maneuvered in flight via Xbox 360 controller and a camera which relays live video to the soldier’s computer.
In the below video you can see a Lockheed Martin promotional video, apparently targeting the law enforcement community:
This drone has been used by Special Operations Forces since 2006 for reconnaissance and surveillance, so the only major change here is the ability to actually transfer power via laser beam.
The most astounding aspect of the technology is the fact that it can actually provide the Stalker with a continuous source of power, meaning that the drone could, theoretically, stay in the air forever.
However, this test – which actually found that the Stalker’s battery had more energy stored than before takeoff – was only conducted in a wind tunnel.
According to Tom Nugent, the president of LaserMotive, all that is left is an actual outdoors demonstration of the technology.
“The next step in proving the reality of this technology is to demonstrate it outdoors in an extended flight of the Stalker,” Nugent said to Wired.
Personally, I hope this technology does not become popular or in wide use as it would just further encourage the widespread use of drones by the military, law enforcement and private entities. We will have enough problems thanks to the hard work of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
I believe that the last thing America needs right now is more drones, never mind more drones which could actually fly for days, weeks, months or even years on end if needed.
Thankfully, at this stage it appears that no huge amounts of power can be transferred by the technology since the only drone this is being used on is the relatively small Stalker.
I say thankfully because at least this type of drone was not created to carry huge payloads of weapons like many of the other drones so fondly spoken of by politicians (one might guess that is at least partially thanks to the hard work of the drone lobby), law enforcement and the military.
So, at least for the time being, we’re not going to see any assassination drones over the United States being powered by lasers, even though U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would probably say it’s okay because the Obama administration’s “death panel” meetings count as due process (and it’s a secret).