Working with wireless power specialists LaserMotive, Lockheed Martin has successfully completed preliminary tests of a new laser refuelling system that extends the flight time of its Stalker unmanned aerial drone to over 48 hours.
That not only represents about a 2400 per cent increase in flight duration, but the system also doesn’t require another aircraft to deliver the fuel boost. Instead, ground-based lasers — from a mobile vehicle or stable delivery platform — simply target the craft’s solar cells while it circles overhead.
The initial tests on the Stalker were conducted in a controlled wind tunnel, and at its conclusion, the drone’s batteries actually had a greater charge than when the test was started. Theoretically it means the only reason a reconnaissance drone would ever have to land would be for physical maintenance — or if it gets shot down. [Lockheed Martin via Gizmag]