Awesome! Fly drones with microwaves - impossible just made possible | Tech News

Awesome! Fly drones with microwaves - impossible just made possible

Yes, scientists are using microwaves to power free-flying drones by shooting microwave power from an antenna on the ground to the drone.

| Updated on: Aug 21 2022, 19:47 IST
Not just drones, now scientists want to power rockets with microwaves. (Representative image) 
Not just drones, now scientists want to power rockets with microwaves. (Representative image)  (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

In a recent development, Japanese researchers have made the impossible possible. They have innovated a new type of free-flying drones, powered not by a battery but simply by microwaves, reports Now, they are looking to take the next step and actually power rockets with it.

In conventional drones, Lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries are among the most common battery types used for drones as they are light and have the ability to pack massive amounts of power in a small package, which is ideal for a drone. However, microwaves can do the job even better as the power source is on Earth and not onboard the drone.

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Where do rockets come into the picture? Rockets use fuel sources that are heavy. Almost 90% of the total weight of a rocket belongs to the fuel source. If microwaves are used,, the entire rocket becomes that much lighter. This change may come soon enough according to new research published in ‘the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets', which shows the potential of using microwaves as an alternative fuel source.

So, what are microwaves? They are a type of electromagnetic radiation that pack large amounts of energy that can be converted into electricity. The system is similar to the way sunlight is turned into electricity by solar panels.

"In drone experiments, microwave power is sent from the antenna on the ground to the antenna on the drone. A rectifier is used to convert RF [radio frequency] to DC [direct current], and the DC power is used to drive the drone's motors. We call it "rectenna" (rectifier + antenna)," one of the new study's authors, Kohei Shimamura of the University of Tsukuba, told in an email.

In the experiment conducted, the source of the microwave beam was placed and maintained right under the drone and when it started flying, the drone reached a height of around 2.6 feet (0.8 meters) and maintained its flight for 30 seconds.

In the experiment, 30% of the emitted microwaves were captured by the drone, and 40% of those microwaves were converted to electricity for propulsion, revealed. That leaves much room for improvement, of course, before it is allowed anywhere near a rocket.

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First Published Date: 24 Aug, 07:20 IST