Could our drones be powered wirelessly by 2017?

It’s only a couple of weeks since GoPro and DJI went head-to-head, with both companies launching sophisticated entry-level drones aimed squarely at first time flyers. Now researchers at Imperial College London have demonstrated a proof-of-concept device that could give a huge boost to the usability of these aircraft, giving users the ability to wirelessly power a consumer-grade drone while it’s still in the air.

Mavic Pro (Folded View, View from Right)
DJI’s Mavic Pro drone folds up but doesn’t charge wirelessly… yet. Read Matt Allard’s in-depth review of the Mavic Pro here.

The technology uses inductive coupling, a technique that the university’s blog points out was pioneered by Nikolai Tesla over 100 years ago.

The drone used has been modified to induce an AC current when it flies into a magnetic field generated on the ground, this is then converted to DC power onboard the drone.

It’s still an early stage prototype – the drone itself can only fly around 10cm above the source of the magnetic field – but if they can extend the range the potential applications for consumer and professional aerial vehicles are clearly huge. Flight times are currently measured in tens of minutes per battery so anything that keeps aerial vehicles, aerial, is potentially very useful for the industry. Apparently the tech is around a year from being commercialised. Watch this space.

There’s much more detail on the Imperial blog here and it’s well worth checking out the whole piece. Here’s looking forward to a future without wires…

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