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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”

  • 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

  • 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