Energy harvesting is a novel way to keep devices charged, primarily in remote and harsh environments. Well, it doesn't get more harsh or remote than aerial warfare, which makes a new deal between Raytheon and DARPA, the Department of Defense’s arm that invests in breakthrough technologies for national security, all the more intriguing.
Raytheon recently received a $10 million contract from the agency to design and develop "energy webs," a wireless airborne relay system that can deliver energy in contested environments.
The program is called “POWER,’ or the Persistent Optical Wireless Energy Relay program. DARPA hopes it can change energy distribution as we know it by leveraging power beaming for near-instantaneous energy transport in a resilient, multi-path network.
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As part of the two-year deal, Raytheon will create an airborne relay design to enable "webs" capable of harvesting, transmitting and redirecting optical beams. The webs will transmit energy from ground sources to high altitude for the precision, long-range operation of unmanned systems, sensors and effectors.
The hope is that harvested energy can reduce the military's dependence on fuel, delivery and storage.
Energy webs could make it possible for military commanders to safely and efficiently reroute energy in a matter of seconds or minutes.
Colin Whelan, president of Advanced Technology at Raytheon says, "Energy is essential in the modern battlespace, and it is critical to achieving military objectives.” He says that energy may not always be available in contested environments, which is why it’s vital to be able to generate, store and re-distribute it.
According to Raytheon, work on POWER is being performed in El Segundo, California.
The POWER program is part of DARPA's Energy Web Dominance portfolio, which aims to establish more dynamic energy transport across air, space, maritime, land and undersea domains. DARPA boasts that it explicitly reaches for transformational change instead of incremental advances, this could be an incredible leap forward.