After decades of space and military agencies work, power beaming is finally becoming a reality. The highly secretive X-37B was used to test a Photovoltaic Radio-frequency Antenna Module (PRAM) on its last mission. PRAM-FX is a Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) experiment that’s investigating transforming solar power into radio frequency (RF) microwave energy and broadcasting it to earth. Power beaming could revolutionize energy much like the worldwide web revolutionized communications. Read more from DARPA:
Energy is a fundamental currency in the battlespace. The POWER program will leverage power beaming for near-instantaneous energy transport to enable a resilient, multi-path energy network. To create this wireless energy web, POWER seeks to design and demonstrate effective airborne optical energy relays. These relays are a critical component necessary to allow ground-sourced lasers to be coupled with high-altitude, efficient long-range transmission. As envisioned, POWER’s final demonstration will employ relays integrated onto existing platforms to validate long-distance transmission from a ground-sourced laser through multiple airborne nodes and back down to a ground receiver.
“As we look…decades in the future, this could fundamentally change things as we know it across society. So much of our society is tied to our ability to effectively use energy. And what we’re trying to do is add a new tool to spread energy to more people more flexibly in order to create a better society, as well as open up a lot of opportunities for the tough challenges that our military has to face.” -Col Paul Calhoun, DARPA Program manager
Offboarding energy storage and generation from platforms opens up a novel design space where platform capabilities are no longer dependent on the quantity of fuel carried. This provides an opportunity for small, inexpensive distributed platforms with significant capabilities such as unlimited range or endurance. POWER will explore conceptual designs for optimized relay platforms while demonstrating relays that have the characteristics necessary for use in a larger, scalable airborne wireless power beaming network.
X-37B Tests NRL’s PRAM-FX Experiment
Voices from DARPA Podcast Episode 67: Wireless Power Beaming – 4-20-23
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