The U.S. Navy wants to develop drones that are powered by harvesting “battlefield energy.”
Which is a more charitable way of describing a drone that flies by stealing electricity from power lines.
The problem is that future conflicts are likely to feature clouds of small drones, whether operating in swarms to overwhelm an enemy, or a mini-drone carried in a soldier’s pocket that flies ahead to scout out a building. But tiny drones have tiny batteries measured in thirty minutes or so of flight, and the battlefield is not the place to search for an electrical outlet to recharge.
“The infrastructure to manage a future fleet of sUAS [small UAVs] in the field under austere conditions may be daunting considering the magnitude of battery recharging needs,” the navy notes. “It is also desirable to simultaneously increase mission duration and persistence; therefore, the ability to scavenge power directly from the battlefield would be an important military technology with other dual-use civilian applications.”
But what if the fighting is in a city, where there will likely be plenty of electrical poles and power lines?
This would allow a drone “to ‘dock’ on a power line in an urban environment, scavenging magnetic energy as a means to trickle-charge its onboard batteries prior to mission continuation, could provide significant tactical benefits,” according to the navy research solicitation , which is looking for answers from industry and academia. “If the energy scavenging source is collocated at the mission area, full mission persistence might be achieved and the micro- and small UAS may never need to return to base.”To read more, click here.