Laser power beaming a solution to dod energy challenges 9 13 11
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Laser Power Beaming: A Solution to DoD Energy Challenges 9/13/11. Scott Milburn 253.872.3300. Outline. Laser power beaming overview LaserMotive background Power beaming applications. Power Beaming: Crazy Idea. Laser-Launched Rockets.

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Laser Power Beaming: A Solution to DoD Energy Challenges 9/13/11

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Laser power beaming a solution to dod energy challenges 9 13 11

Laser Power Beaming: A Solution to DoD Energy Challenges9/13/11

Scott Milburn




Laser power beaming overview

LaserMotive background

Power beaming applications

Power beaming crazy idea

Power Beaming: Crazy Idea

Laser-Launched Rockets

Space-Based Solar Power

Laser power schematic

Laser Power Schematic

“Invisible extension cord in the sky”

Detailed schematic

Detailed Schematic

“Invisible extension cord in the sky”

Laser transmitter

Laser Transmitter

Competitive power sources

Competitive Power Sources



  • Receiver

    • Power Density: 1 kW/kg (~0.61 HP/lb)

      • Includes thermal radiator, assumes air flow

    • Energy Density: Infinite (no time/fuel limit)

    • Temperatures below ~80°C

    • 50% light-to-electricity efficiency

  • Transmitter

    • Compact

    • 60% electricity-to-light efficiency (demo’d to 70%+)

    • 20,000+ hour lifetime for diode laser

  • Potential performance

    • Range out to 5-10km with diode lasers

    • Range to 10km-100km+ with fiber lasers

    • Power scales up (and down) linearly

      • Add modular units for more power

  • Limitations

    • Line of sight

      • Weather

      • Atmospheric turbulence near ground level

    • Efficiency

      • Currently ~20%-25% end-to-end system efficiency

      • May increase beyond 30% in ~5 years, potential for 50%+ in 10+ years

Company history

Company History

Founded Jan. ‘07

Prototype in Mojave


(Nov. ‘09)

2people full time

(Jan. ’10)

1 kilometer

distance for

NASA prize

Won $900K from NASA for 2009 Power Beaming Challenge

Laser power beaming a solution to dod energy challenges 9 13 11


  • Decades of experience across relevant fields

    Tom Nugent – President, co-founder

    • 15+ years advanced technology development and team leadership

      Dr. Jordin Kare – Chief Scientist, co-founder

    • 40 years experience in lasers and optics

    • 1st diode laser power beaming demonstration 1996

    • PhD physics

      Dave Bashford – VP Operations

    • 30+ years fabrication and manufacturing

    • Both R&D lab and production line setup

      Scott Milburn – COO

    • 30+ years in business, law, technology, and finance

    • Experienced in growing multiple startups

  • Plus 9 others: core team from NASA Centennial Challenge (small biz owners, machinists, programmers, etc.)

State of technology 2011

State of Technology: 2011

  • In 2010 we reached TRL ~7 for UAVs

    • 12.5 hour continuous flight of VTOL UAV (quadrocopter)

    • “Hands off” (nearly) operation with fully automated acquisition and tracking

    • In-flight battery recharge

    • “Class 1” eye-safe at ground level

    • 800 W/kg receiver specific power

Select applications

Select Applications

  • InvisiTower

    • instantly deployable, easily transportable, observation tower

  • Power over Fiber

    • Where copper wire is impractical

    • Underwater, tethered UAVs, modular satellites

  • UAVs

    • Fixed wing (airplanes)

    • Rotary wing (helicopters)

    • Lighter than air (aerostats, airships)

  • Remote Sensors & Communication Towers

    • Perimeter control

  • Field personnel

    • Reduce battery load

  • Forward Operating Bases

    • Save lives and cost by reducing fuel convoys

Invisitower overview

InvisiTower Overview

  • Persistent “tower” for ISR and/or communications relay

  • VTOL electric vehicle powered and controlled via tether

    • Automatically controlled to hold position in wind, etc.

    • Brushless direct drive motors: zero maintenance

  • Laser power delivered over optical fiber, converted to DC on vehicle

    • Dramatically lower weight than wire; enables higher altitudes

    • Thinner cable reduces wind drag

    • Lightning-safe (nonconducting)

  • Self-deploying, fully recoverable

Invisitower capabilities and scaling

InvisiTower Capabilities and Scaling

  • Initial system (based on COTS vehicle):

    • ~100 g payload capacity  

    • <200 W vehicle power

    • Up to 10 W payload power

    • Flies in sustained 20+ mph wind 

    • Vehicle-portable ground station: 

      • < 200 lbs

      • 3’ x 2.5’ x 2’ enclosure

      • < 1.5 kW input (120 AC/24 or 48 DC)

  • Interchangeable payloads  

    • Immediate:  HD video

    • Planned:  IR imaging/night vision  

    • Communications transciever or relay  

    • Future:  Radar, illumination, cellular base station

  • System is scaleable to larger or smaller payload capacities

    • Man portable (micro-vehicle)  

      • All-electric power transfer for low altitude, low cost

      • Laser for high altitude, high performance  

    • Higher altitudes (e.g., 1,500+ feet) and/or larger payloads

      • Larger single- or multirotor platforms

      • Powered aerostats

Invisitower features

InvisiTower Features

  • Low observability

  • 24/7 persistence

    • Lasting weeks or months

  • Rapidly deployable

  • Fast recovery

  • Mobile and easy to relocate

  • Low training requirement

  • Automated position, orientation, & altitude control

    • NO piloting needed

  • All weather

  • Small operational burden

    • Low cost to operate

  • Controllable position

    • Variable altitude

    • Ability to offset horizontally from ground station

  • Networkable/clusterable

  • Secure data feed from sensors

    • Via fiber optic cable

  • Dedicated or shared data in real time

  • Fiber optics plus enclosed photovoltaics means NO laser safety issues

Invisitower applications military

InvisiTower Applications: Military

  • Combat outpost

    • Persistent area surveillance

  • Field communications relay or transceiver

    • Higher altitude than truck-deployable towers (and much more compact)

    • Less expensive than manned helicopter

    • More portable and far less expensive than MARTS

    • Could be integrated with HMMV/MRAP for “instant radio tower” capability whenever needed

    • Extend range of radio comms

  • Base perimeter security & sensing

  • Enhanced observation of training/exercises

Power over fiber

Power Over Fiber

  • Laser power delivered over fiber optic cable – much lighter than copper wire

  • Projected distances/power levels:

    • 250m: 500W

    • 500m: 466W

    • 1km: 362W

    • 5km: 113W

    • 10km: 34W

  • Splitting the beam to send it down multiple paths will probably result in a 60+% power reduction for each of two branches coming off the split (e.g. 100W arriving at the splitter, ≈40W coming out on each of two legs.

Power over fiber applications

Power-Over-Fiber Applications

Power for underwater drones and sensors

Tethered UAVs

Modular satellites

Uavs stationary platforms

UAVs: Stationary Platforms

  • Eternal laser-powered UAVs for communications, remote sensing, safety

    • High-altitude observation

    • Atmospheric satellites

    • Remain on station indefinitely

Uavs unlimited patrol

UAVs: Unlimited Patrol

Missions of unlimited duration

Convoy protection

Fly off beam to survey or check for IEDs, then re-acquire beam and recharge in flight

Uavs multi isr

UAVs: Multi-ISR

Recharge without landing

Missions of almost unlimited duration

Multiple charging stations (e.g. along US border)

Airborne transmitter can recharge from above

Point to point laser power links

Point-to-Point Laser Power Links

Operational Capability

  • Deliver power to unattended sensors without wires

    • Perimeter security, intrusion detection

    • Minimize installation costs, eliminate battery replacement

  • Power isolated equipment or facilities

    • Communications relays

    • Guard posts/inspection stations

Technical Approach

  • Laser power transmitter

    • Near-IR; low visibility

    • Dedicated per-user or time-shared

  • Photovoltaic receiver

    • Small area (1-10%) vs. solar panel

    • Concealable; needs only line-of-sight to transmitter

  • Local rechargeable batteries

    • Power through outages (rain, beam interruptions) or for time-shared source

  • Transmission efficiency ~20%

Air to ground recharging of deployed devices

Air-to-Ground Recharging of Deployed Devices

Operational Capability

  • Periodically recharge deployed devices (e.g., unattended ground sensors, communications relays, jammers, ground forces’ equipment) from manned aircraft or UAVs

    • Power receivers much smaller than solar panels and require only narrow-angle line of sight to open air

    • Receiver designed to minimize hostile discovery

  • Standoff ranges up to ~10 km

  • Low to very low observables

  • Integrated active or passive optical communications

Technical Approach

  • Near-IR laser source on aircraft

    • Can use 1.5-2 um wavelength for reduced observability

  • Photovoltaic receiver, >10 kW/m2 peak output

    • <<1% charging duty cycle feasible: minutes per week

  • Retroreflector aiming target

    • Can incorporate anti-detection features

  • Transmit/receive handshaking and imaging-based safety systems to prevent personnel hazards

Current military government discussions

Current Military/Government Discussions

  • Other military and civilian groups interested in funding product development or seeing demonstration projects.

  • Groups we’re talking with include:

  • NASA Office of Chief Technologist (OCT) – contract launched 8/25 for space applications – powering LEO satellites and laser launch. Follow on BAA for technology development in early 2012.

  • U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force (REF) – planning to order five InvisiTower units for ATEC testing

  • Air Force Special Operations Command HQ presentation on 9/9/11

  • Office of Naval Research – demo of power over fiber this Fall

  • U.S. Army G2 – evaluating a variety of applications

  • U.S. Army UAS Program Office

  • Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory- extended UAS endurance

  • International Lunar Research Park / NASA Ames

  • Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Propulsion Directorate

  • National Security Space Office (NSSO)

  • U.S. Navy PACOM



Scott Milburn


Science fiction becoming science and enabling a variety of new power applications

Unlimited electrical power becomes available where it was previously limited or unavailable

Extended mission duration, reduced fuel demands, greater secrecy, reduced danger to personnel

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