DARPA looks to leverage laser-equipped KC-46 and KC-135 tankers to recharge drones wirelessly

DARPA looks to leverage laser-equipped KC-46 and KC-135 tankers to recharge drones wirelessly

By Dario Leone
Jun 16 2022
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The benefits of having drones recharge their batteries in mid-air include extended range and having small energy storage capacities.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) published a request for information on Jun. 14, 2022 seeking industry feedback on a concept to wirelessly recharge unmanned air vehicles using a high-powered laser mounted on an external pod of aerial refueling aircraft like the US Air Force’s KC-46 and KC-135, noted Alert 5.

According to Inside Defense The solicitation, which lays out a July 11 deadline for submissions, notes such a solution “should have sufficient power for a 100 [kilowatt] or greater continuous wave laser as well as the thermal control for integrating the laser” onto the tankers.

The notice aims to gauge broader feedback from respondents surrounding industry’s confidence in creating and testing such components and subsystems, as well as the associated challenges of adapting equipment and missions to that new capability.

The benefits of having drones recharge their batteries in mid-air include extended range and having small energy storage capacities.

An airborne energy well, the RFI states, could become one part “of a more expansive energy web of power generation, transfer relays and receiving solutions, enabling the Department of Defense to dynamically allocate energy resources to more flexibly deliver military effects.”

Officials are looking to use the RFI as a jumping-off point as they assess and build out aircrafts’ ability “to dynamically move energy across a network” of platforms with capabilities to beam energy and receive it, according to the notice.

KC-46 print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. KC-46A Pegasus 97th AMW, 56th ARS, 17-76028, Altus AFB

Photo credit: Christopher Okula / U.S. Air Force


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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