We successfully beat the Laser Powered flight endurance
record by double. Our flight time was 25 hours, 0 Minutes and 35 seconds. This
was done at the VOX theater in Kansas City Kansas. We used a highly modified
AR-Drone Quadcopter. We did this with 500 watts of laser power and non-exotic
photovoltaic cells. Our total systems hardware costs were less than $30,000. I
estimate this is well less than 1/3 of the 2009 record. Much of the hardware
would cost even less if purchased today. This shows the exponential increase in
human technological abilities is alive and well and that commercial laser
powered flight applications are only a few years away. We can look forward to
flying cell towers, autonomous shark patrols and countless other applications that
only become practical with beam powered flight.
Achieving the record was not without drama. The planed for
48 hours got trimmed back to 24. We continued to 25 so we could double the
previous record. Turns out that human endurance plays a role as we became tired
human mistakes became a prominent concern.
The lasers themselves worked flawlessly. The optics needed adjustment at
the start. The quadcopter behaved like the finicky result of hacking a toy for
purposes well beyond those it’s creators ever imagined. The Kansas City Star
article covered all this well with this article: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/09/29/4517656/kansas-city-team-breaks-record.html
The date is finally set! Sept. 27 to the 29th we will attempt to set a new record for beam powered flight duration. We are a bit behind schedule, just a year.
In that year I have been much more active in my kid's lives by working as a volunteer in Boy Scouts and FIRST Robotics, I also had the best year ever in my business. But I did keep working on the power beaming project in the spare-spare time from all of that.
The plan is to launch between 6 and 7 PM on Friday and fly till as late as 7 or 8 PM Sunday.
The goal when we started this project was to start a business part time and have it grow to full time over the course of a few years allowing us to hire our fellow Space Pirates full time as we grew. However, now I see that path as always leaving my family with the short end of the stick. So although I still have an eye out for going full time professional as a power beamer I look at it as an all or nothing kind of deal. That may change as my children graduate from high school, but for now I will just be a power beaming hobbyist.
I will be posting more technical details on our web site in the next few days. Here is a photo of our computer screen with the quadcopter's view of the hall.
Our rival, LaserMotive, made a press release
yesterday that they had kept a stalker UAV flying for 48 hours in a wind
tunnel. This is great news for the technology of power beaming but it certainly
steals some of our thunder.
It is clear to me that they have been
working on this for some time and the flight is not in response to our efforts.
The one thing I do think is in response to us is the 48 hour timeframe.
So... Congratulations LaserMotive on a job well
Our response is that we
are going to scale back the duration of our flight to something easier for us
to manage. The 48 hours was making the venue and staffing a challenge and now
there is little point in beating them by some negligible amount.