To get drones to fly longer and farther, manufacturers have been building ever bigger batteries. But at least one researcher is working on a drone that requires no battery at all.
Imperial College of London research associate Dr. Samer Aldhaher has found a way to power a small drone through wireless charging. The drone itself gets all the power it needs from a wireless charging unit directly beneath it. While it certainly won’t be able to fly anywhere, it at least works.
Right now Aldhaher only has been able to get the drone to fly about five inches above the wireless charging base. It also can’t move very much, mainly due to the lack of an onboard battery. If it flies too far away from the charging power, it shuts off.
Here’s the technical explanation on how this works. Aldhaher told Hackaday that the transmitter is etched into a PCB coil, which sends power wirelessly to a copper foil tape at a frequency of 13.56 MHz. This is much higher than the frequency used for most power transfer projects of this type, mainly because it allows the parts to be smaller and lighter, a necessity here.
Don’t try this at home though: these high frequencies are pushing some of the onboard transistors to the limit. The ones used in Aldhaher’s drone were created specifically for this project, and are capable of withstanding the stresses placed on them.
If you’re curious, Dr. Aldhaher has made his research paper on his work publicly available by clicking here. It’s a complicated read, but worth it if you’re interested. As a general matter, however, even though this is quite rough around the edges and limited in capabilities at present, it’s an exciting look into what could be in our future thanks to wireless charging.