DARPA, a science agency, has a new plan called POWER. They want to use lasers from flying things to power machines very far away.
Some machines have a big problem. They need power, like batteries, but batteries are heavy. This is a big issue for planes. Electric planes are good, but their batteries are bulky making them less useful.
For a long time, people wanted to send power through the air, but it was hard because of physics. Now, DARPA has a new idea. They want to use lasers to send power from the ground to faraway machines. For example, they can give electric planes power for very long trips.
This sounds simple, but there are many problems. Lasers need a straight path, so they need flying platforms high up to avoid problems from air and water. Also, they need to aim lasers very precisely, like laser weapons.
But the biggest issue is that a lot of power gets lost when changing laser light to electricity and back multiple times.
DARPA is in the first step of POWER. They are making plans for the flying platforms. The second step is putting the technology in planes, and the third step is testing it by sending 10 kilowatts of laser power across 200 km (125 miles).
“This project has the potential to advance power beaming by orders of magnitude, which could radically reshape society’s relationship with energy,” said Dr. Paul Jaffe, leader of the POWER program at DARPA. A wireless energy web could unlock power from new and diverse sources, including from space, and rapidly and reliably connect them to energy-starved consumers.
“Energy underpins every human activity, including defense. We need ways to deliver energy that overcome the vulnerabilities and other shortcomings of our current paradigm. The next leap forward in optical power beaming could hinge on relay technologies.”