October 30, 2010

Laser motive powers a helicopter with a laser for over 12 hours

the Pelican quadrocopter is a prototype for a new generation of mini-drones designed for military use. The Pelican was powered by a Laser Motive system for 12 hours, 26 minutes and 56 seconds. Laser Motive won $900,000 last year in the NASA-backed Beam Power Challenge (Space Elevator Games).

Nugent said that LaserMotive will be "going after research-and-development contracts to integrate this into existing UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] that are being developed by the military." For example, laser-powered copters could perform on-the-road reconnaissance missions when convoys travel through a combat zone. The beam would come from a portable laser source sitting in the back of a Humvee.

LaserMotive's prize-winning performance last year proved that beam systems could work over a distance of a kilometer (0.6 miles), and now the company is talking about extending that range to tens or hundreds of kilometers. "I've actually done a design for powering a lunar base from Earth," Kare said. He's also fleshing out a concept he came up with in 1991 to launch single-stage vehicles into orbit using heat exchanger thrusters that are powered by intense laser light.

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