Currently, electrically powered UASs are limited in range and duration by the size and weight of the batteries which they can carry. Batteries can make up a significant percentage of the available payload weight. Consequently, there is an inherent tradeoff between duration and useful payload. Because of these constraints, the flight times of electrically powered UAVs are typically limited to less than one hour.
In order to extend flight times and gain more flexibility with regard to payload, Navy scientists and engineers have developed a method of perching a UAS on a utility power line and inductively charging the drone. The UAS can be configured as a helicopter, quadcopter, or airplane with each design including a releasable latch which attaches the device to the power line. Inductive coupling charges the batteries on board while the craft is fully supported by the power line. Additionally, the UAS can determine the presence, location and direction of a power line and with additional processing can compute a time to impact. For small, electrically powered drones, every active power line is a recharging station.
- Expanded range and flight times
- Ability to carry larger payloads
- Fully compatible with current rechargeable battery technologies
- US patent 7,714,536 is available for license