Raytheon, a subsidiary of RTX, has secured a $10 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to advance its plans for a groundbreaking wireless energy system. Named the Persistent Optical Wireless Energy Relay program, or POWER, this initiative aims to create an airborne “wireless internet for energy.” The primary objective is to supply energy to U.S. military assets operating in challenging environments such as warzones.
Under the two-year contract, Raytheon will develop the design for an airborne relay system capable of forming “webs” in the sky. These webs will harvest, transmit, and redirect optical beams, delivering energy from ground sources to high altitudes. The intended outcome is a system that facilitates precision and long-range operations of unmanned systems, sensors, and effectors. This innovation could significantly reduce the military’s reliance on traditional fuel sources and the logistical challenges associated with their transportation and storage.
Colin Whelan, president of Advanced Technology at Raytheon, emphasizes the critical role of energy in modern warfare. He states that, especially in contested environments, energy may be scarce, making the generation, storage, and redistribution of power vital. The technology aims to empower the military to generate power safely and efficiently and distribute it easily across different platforms.
The POWER system, once operational, promises transformative capabilities. It could enable the transfer of energy to ground targets or autonomous aerial platforms, allowing sustained flight through constant battery charging from a distance. The deployment of multiple power-relaying platforms creates an “energy web” that military logisticians can instantly tap into, directing energy to strategic locations as needed.
While acknowledging potential limitations, such as energy loss during conversion processes, DARPA expresses optimism about the technology’s potential for both military and civilian applications. Colonel Paul Calhoun, POWER program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, envisions the wireless energy web as a revolutionary force, dramatically compressing transport timelines and providing distributed energy across various domains. The POWER program aligns with DARPA’s broader “Energy Web Dominance” portfolio, aiming to establish a flexible and responsive system for energy transport across air, space, maritime, land, and undersea domains. Ultimately, the goal is to empower military commanders to redirect energy quickly and efficiently without reconfiguring supply lines, enhancing their capabilities for near-instantaneous pivots in the dynamic landscape of modern warfare.