KENT, WA: LaserMotive, an independent R&D company specializing in laser power beaming and winner of the 2009 NASA-sponsored Power Beaming Challenge, has announced that it will be showcasing a demonstration model of a laser-powered remote controlled helicopter at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America 2010 Conference, August 24 – 27 in Denver, Colo., booth #227.
The demonstration model, which uses a tethered remote-controlled helicopter, is eye-safe and has been designed to fit inside LaserMotive’s booth at the show. In lab tests conducted by LaserMotive, the laser-powered helicopter has flown for nearly two hours, making it the longest duration laser-powered helicopter flight on record. The helicopter will be flown all day long during the four-day Conference, the company said.
“The ability to fly an unmanned helicopter for this length of time using laser power beaming is an important technological advance for unmanned aerial vehicles,” said Tom Nugent, President of LaserMotive. “Not only does this provide a way for UAVs to be powered in flight without the need for fuel, but it potentially can extend their abilities and enable new missions.”
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are currently one of the one of the largest growth sectors in the aerospace and defense industries. According to industry research firm Teal Group, the market for UAVs is expected to grow worldwide from $4.9 billion annually to $11.5 billion annually in the next 10 years.
The system uses laser power beaming — the wireless transfer of energy over distances using laser light — to provide a virtually endless supply of power to the helicopter. It is safe to the eye, and based on technology the company developed for its winning entry in the 2009 Power Beaming Challenge for a purse prize of nearly $1 million, marking the first time any team ever won the Challenge.
According to the company, today’s announcement is part of a series of strategic steps the company is taking as part of its long-term blueprint to develop a full-scale laser power system for unmanned aerial vehicles, which the company announced earlier this year. LaserMotive’s next step is to demonstrate power beaming to a larger, free-flying UAV.
Headquartered in Kent, Wash., LaserMotive is a privately-held R&D company specializing in laser power beaming for commercial applications. The company was co-founded in 2006 by Dr. Jordin Kare, one of the foremost experts on laser propulsion, and Tom Nugent, former Research Director for LiftPort Group. Its industry partners include some of the leading companies in aerospace and lasers, including The Boeing Company, DILAS, MS Kennedy, Ophir Spiricon, 4D Optical, and In-Tec.