A remote-controlled quadrocopter recently set a new world record by staying aloft for 12 hours using energy beamed up to it by lasers. Developed by LaserMotive, the quadrocopter has photovoltaic panels installed all along its belly, which absorb laser light to power the vehicle. The quadrocopter hovered at 30 feet for 12 hours, breaking LaserMotive’s previous record.
LaserMotive set the world record for the longest-duration laser-powered helicopter flight when it flew a tethered remote-controlled helicopter up to six hours at a time for four days at the AUVSI Conference in Denver, Colo. During their latest demonstration the team was able to break their previous record, and they believe that they could power their Pelican quadrocopter for “at least 10 times (and maybe 20 times) the duration possible with batteries alone”.
Speaking of the demo, Tom Nugent, President and Co-founder of LaserMotive said, “The demonstration will mark our first public display of a free-flying unmanned aerial vehicle powered by lasers, and represents an important step forward in the future development of flight. As such, we feel that the Future of Flight is the perfect place to hold this groundbreaking demo.”
It is hoped that the innovation will be utilized by the military to extend the time that unmanned drones and other aerial vehicles can spend in the air. Unmanned aerial vehicles are one of the largest growth sectors in the defense industries, with a projected growth of $11.5 billion annually by 2020. LaserMotive, an independent R&D company specializing in laser power beaming, was previously the winner of the 2009 NASA-sponsored Power Beaming Competition.