It's not sharks with frickin' lasers, but it's a start
Lockheed Martin has announced a very interesting achievement in cooperation with a company called LaserMotive. The two companies were able to power a Lockheed Martin Stalker Unmanned Aerial System during flight for over 48 hours using a laser. The duration of the flight was improved by 2400% compared to what the Stalker is capable of alone.
"We're pleased with the results of this test. Laser power holds real promise in extending the capabilities of Stalker," said Tom Koonce, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® Stalker program manager. "A ground-to-air recharging system like this allows us to provide practically unlimited flight endurance to extend and expand the mission profiles that the Stalker vehicle can fulfill."
That proprietary LaserMotive system makes it possible to transfer energy wirelessly over long distances using laser light enabling a continuous source of power. The test flight was held in a wind tunnel and at the conclusion of the flight test, the onboard battery of the Stalker had more energy stored inside than it did at the beginning of the test. According to Lockheed Martin, the test could have gone on longer and was ended only because the flight had surpassed the initial endurance goals set by the team.
The Stalker itself is a small, lightweight, unmanned aerial system used by special operations forces around the world since 2006 for intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
"This test is one of the final steps in bringing laser-powered flight to the field," said Tom Nugent, president of LaserMotive. "By enabling in-flight recharging, this system will ultimately extend capabilities, improve endurance and enable new missions for electric aircraft. The next step in proving the reality of this technology is to demonstrate it outdoors in an extended flight of the Stalker."