An assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas has been honored with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Director’s Fellowship.

This fellowship will support Dr. Ifana Mahbub’s continued research in developing wireless technology for recharging unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during flight.

Source: The University of Texas at DallasSource: The University of Texas at Dallas

Dr. Mahbub and her research team are pioneering far-field wireless power transfer technology — otherwise known as power beaming. This innovation seeks to transfer electromagnetic waves over long distances, allowing UAVs and other devices to recharge without needing to land at power stations.

This development will reportedly revolutionize wireless recharging, which currently relies on low-frequency electromagnetic waves for short-distance charging, such as charging a cellphone with a nearby charger.

Power beaming over long distances presents the challenge of preventing electromagnetic wave scattering. To address this, Mahbub and her team of researchers employed a system of transmitters, specifically phased-array antennas, to direct the electromagnetic waves along a specific path.

“We need to engineer the waveform to minimize path loss,” explained Mahbub.

Additionally, the technology incorporates telemetry to track a UAV’s movements in real-time and ensure precise signal directionality.

“We can track the unmanned aerial vehicle and steer the beam to ensure we are constantly powering the dynamic vehicles,” Mahbub said. “That way, a drone going for a mission doesn’t have to return to a bay station for recharging or a battery change.”

Far-field charging for UAVs promises to revolutionize various technologies, such as electric vehicles, mobile phones and wearable devices. Implementing far-field charging for vehicles or phones would require strategically placing transmitters in buildings and other infrastructures. Further, Mahbub is involved in creating wireless charging technology for implanted devices, using low-frequency electromagnetic waves at a safe level as stipulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

The project seeks to pioneer systems for recording and stimulating neural signals on a chip connected wirelessly using low-power and adaptable radio links. Additionally, it will integrate a wireless power transfer system to provide sustained power to brain implants in freely moving animals.

The ultimate goal is to study the behavior and validate the effectiveness of this system in animal models, specifically in addressing challenging conditions such as chronic neuropathic pain and post-stroke paralysis.

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