DARPA Wireless Power Beaming

DARPA is creating wireless power beaming to create a dynamic, adaptive, speed of light wireless energy web. The goal of the Persistent Optical Wireless Energy Relay (POWER) program is to design and demonstrate airborne optical energy relays. These relays are a critical component necessary to allow ground-sourced lasers to be coupled with high-altitude, efficient long-range transmission. Additionally, such relays will enable future multi-path wireless energy networks.

They are working to extend the range of power beaming and provide power to flying drones.

18 thoughts on “DARPA Wireless Power Beaming”

  1. Seuls les UAV-HATLE, HAPS PRAM Mica +…. pourront ce passer des apports d énergies proposées ici! Mais il y a du monde sur les “claviers”!
    Merci Thank you merci a Tous !

      • And they are just now getting around to stealing his last but most important discovery…..He was just that far ahead of everyone else.

        • Even if they were copying his designs line by line, don’t you think that his patents would have fallen into the Public Domain a long, long time ago? So “stealing” is not appropriate at all no matter how close they are or are not to those designs.

          • “They” are “stealing” the basic idea of energy from Isaac Newton. Which is where Tesla “stole” it from.

            Meanwhile, Cyrano de Bergerac wrote a science fiction story in 1657 where the hero travelled to the moon using a rocket ship. So that idea got “stolen” too.

  2. There was work on relay beam directors during the SDI era, with I think experiments with a receiver/relay beam director hanging from a crane.

    Considering many aircraft, and in particular HALE UAV’s are power-poor, beaming power to them, or using them as relays to forward deployed UAV’s, turns those forever fliers into something more practical. HAPS gets beefy, loaded up with high power BACN nodes.

    There was a semi-related attempt at a electric around-the-world flight using drone “droptank” battery parasite aircraft to boost a mothership.


  3. I mentioned this concept to some colleagues as a means to enable electrical planes.

    Simply having a transmitter at the airport to power takeoff will significantly reduce the required size of onboard batteries for shorter flights, and for long hauls you could imagine a string of stations, like a sky path.

    They though it was stupid and everyone aboard would get cooked like a cheap dinner.

    • The Emrod guys have mentioned doing similar with beamed “microwave-ish” power using their system, in concert with Airbus and ESA for SPS related research. The idea was to cover a large planar area on the aircraft with receivers, getting power (potentially from orbiting SPS)

      • The catch is that you’d need a relatively small spot size to minimize spillover onto the ground, and get anything like a decent efficiency.

        One of the touted safety features of the original SPS concept was an antenna deliberately small enough that the spot size on Earth would be fairly large, limiting energy density to non-weapon levels. A 747 expends about 90MW at takeoff, and 511 square meters of wing. 176KW per square meter.

        That’s low end directed energy weapon levels, easily enough to cook people faster than a microwave does bacon. Sitting at GEO, capable of targeting everything within most of a hemisphere. I think the PR aspects might be a bit of a problem, as well as the negotiations on the international weapons treaties.

        So, as attractive as the idea of powering them from above seems, you probably want that sucker pointed up, not down… You’d need a world long at peace to risk something like that.

        Given the altitude at which airliners fly, you’d need transmitters spaced every 5 miles or so along the route, which is also a bit of a problem over land, and a non-starter over water.

        So, while the idea sounds attractive at first glance, I think it’s maybe not practical.

        • Damn reality strikes again.

          The Divertor in ITER can handle 10 MW/m2, and 20 for a short time, but it will be some time before it is flight worthy.

          A 747 is however a very large plane, maybe a 737 is more suitable.

          • What you can do (in theory at least) is use your directed energy to drive a ballistic launch vehicle instead of a long haul aeroplane.

            That way your string of ground stations need only extend for say a few dozen stations over a few 100 km, not for intercontinental distances.

            Now you’ve got huge power available, you can heat up liquid hydrogen in your monopopellant rocket and get a ISP of 1200 or so. That’s the number they achieved, in real life, in the nuclear rocket experiments back in the 1960s. Only now you’re doing it without the mass and political difficulties of a reactor.

            With ISP of 1200 you’re probably looking at triple the launch mass from a given rocket size. Now anyone who thought that a SpaceX starship might be feasible long term travel can do so at 1/3 the cost.

            It’ll also do wonders for the already rapidly accelerating space launch market.

  4. Military goals are one of the areas where you can stand a certain amount of inefficiency if you can accomplish a task that couldn’t be accomplished otherwise. That isn’t to say economics doesn’t factor into warfare; it can often be decisive not just in the conflict itself but in wether a weapons platform is adopted and changed the nature of defence in an era.

    No one asked if defeating the Nazis was a profitable enterprise, it was something that needed to be done despite the cost. On the other hand, if a cheaper countermeasure to a tank or jet is available instead of relying on an equal number of tanks and jets, it doesn’t make tanks and jets obsolete but it can change how much of your budget you spend on them compared with the countermeasure. It changes the value of the jet/tank to less than the purchase price.

    A system which can transfer energy less economically but faster and more reliably through a war zone than other logistics systems can be worth the added expense and inefficiency. But if countermeasures against these systems can take them out more cheaply and easily than you can deploy them then they will not be worth the expense and inefficiency.

    • A point here in favor of the concept is that the transmitters are likely dual use: Power transmission AND directed energy weapons, depending on the energy density at the target.

      • I’m not sure that a DEW (which supposedly prizes instantaneous power above all else, to kill the target more quickly) and a power beamer (which must maintain transfer over several hours, at least) will ever be combined into one single system. It will probably be mediocre at both jobs.

        • The point is DEW and Power Beaming differ only in energy received over time per unit of area, rather than basic technology.

          I’ve said more than once on these forums that beamed power from orbit is a DEW and the proposed technical safeguards can almost be bypassed. As Brett says above, antenna size is about the only technical safeguard that can’t be bypassed – and then you have other issues with power attenuation and the size of ground stations required as you scale.

          • The biggest difference between a DEW and a power transmitter is the size of the heat rejection apparatus. A machine which needs to work continuously needs to dissipate all the heat it generates, while a machine which only needs to work for a few milliseconds and then cool down over the next second or so can afford to accumulate a lot more heat.

            It’s like how an electric motor and a generator are fundamentally the same machine, but an efficient motor and an efficient generator have very different configurations; if you try to make a machine that does both, it will always lose to machines optimised to do one or the other.

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