A method for using high-energy laser beams to keep drones aloft forever is being devised by researchers from Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in China.

To accomplish this, the researchers fitted a drone with a photoelectric conversion module that converts light energy into electricity. In so doing, the researchers suggest that a high-energy laser beam could be used to remotely charge a drone while it is in flight.

Source: Northwestern Polytechnical UniversitySource: Northwestern Polytechnical University

The automated charging process for tracking drones during flight was tested on these so-called optics-driven drones (ODDs).

"Highlights of the research are 24-hour intelligent vision tracking system and the autonomous long-range energy replenishment for ODD," explained the researchers.

To track the ODDs during flight, a tracking algorithm was developed that reportedly worked under a variety of different environments and light and weather conditions. Further, the team employed an adaptive beam-shaping technology that enabled the beam to autonomously adjust intensity to increase wireless distance transmission.

The team also developed a protection algorithm that automatically adjusts the laser beam's intensity if an obstacle is detected in the path of a beam.

While the researchers caution that operating a high-energy laser beam uninterrupted to keep a drone aloft 24/7 could be cost prohibitive, they are eyeing the technology for applications such as disaster relief, search and rescue missions, military operations, traffic control and security patrols.

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