DARPA to Develop Tactical Wireless Power Transfer Technology

DARPA is soliciting proposals for its persistent optical wireless energy relay (POWER) program.

POWER aims to develop a revolutionary airborne energy distribution platform “by leveraging wireless power beaming to create a dynamic, adaptive, speed of light wireless energy web.”

The optical wireless energy relay will assist weapons delivery platforms and endurance operations that are physically large due to fuel energy storage requirements.

“This is the internet for energy – harnessing resilient, multipath networks to flow energy from abundant sources to energy-starved consumers,” DARPA Tactical Technology Office POWER Program Manager Col. Paul Calhoun said.

“The military faces particularly acute energy challenges, which are driving this innovation. We often must operate far from established energy infrastructure and rely on liquid fuels that require precarious supply lines.”

Developers selected for the program will design and demonstrate aerial optical energy relays to enable ground-based lasers coupled with high-altitude long-range transmission capabilities.

Innovations produced in the program are also expected to support future multipath wireless energy networks.

“The POWER program will develop efficient power beaming relays that redirect optical energy transmissions while maximizing beam quality at each point along the way, selectively harvesting energy as needed,” Calhoun explained.

“It is a three-phase development effort, culminating in a compelling energy relay flight demonstration.”

Wireless Power Beaming

Wireless power transfer networks transform platforms into conduits with unlimited range and endurance, a capability not possible with traditional energy containers.

The power beaming method will utilize the same physics as wireless communication.

“You need a power source; you convert that power to a propagating wave, typically electromagnetic, send it through free space, collect it in through an aperture, and then convert it back to electricity,” Calhoun said.

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According to DARPA, the rapid and resilient flow of energy across the battlespace will provide an advantage for military decisionmaking.

“We believe the next energy revolution will be enabled by the wireless energy web,” Calhoun added. “It will dramatically compress transport timelines and resiliently provide distributed energy to consumers in air, on land, on the sea, undersea, and in space.”