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Automated Remote Charging for Your Flying Drones (Video)

Roblimo posted about 6 months ago | from the aerial-drones-as-automated-traffic-law-enforcers-are-(sadly)-inevitable dept.

Technology 30

The Skysense website says, 'Save time and manage your drone operations remotely: whenever the batteries run out, land on a Skysense Charging Pad and take off as soon as the batteries are recharged. Without ever leaving the office.' That certainly sounds convenient. Since it looks like everybody and her dog is jumping on the flying drone bandwagon, the next step is obviously charging the things without human intervention. We're talking about battery-powered ones, of course, like the multicopter drones that are starting to be used for things like pipeline inspection, mapmaking, and security alarm response. Sadly, using drones for beer delivery is currently against the law in the USA, as are the Burrito Bomber and the much-ballyhooed Amazon Prime Air drone delivery system. All this may change in the next few years as the FAA figures out how to regulate the many commercial drones that will inevitably be zipping through our skies, landing on pads to recharge themselves, and continuing their missions without human intervention. The next step in drone automation will probably be using driverless ground vehicles as drone launching and control stations. Shockingly, there aren't a dozen Kickstarter projects raising money to build automated ground support systems for automated flying drones already, but surely they'll show up before long. (Alternate Video Link)

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But can it charge a Bluetooth tag? (2)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 6 months ago | (#47327985)

Just wondering.

Shell Drone Station (2)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 6 months ago | (#47327997)

I think you could do this same buisness with low tech. Just have a spot where worker scans a barcode on the drone, replaces the battery, and then checks a box on web form. Sort of a drone gass station.

Re:Shell Drone Station (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 6 months ago | (#47328031)

Now that I think about it. You could crowd source this. You could give people a phone app. They could list their inventory of batteries, service hours and gps for landing spot. Prices would be set similer to those cab fair applications. They could scan the old drone with phone. Scan old battery. Scan new battery. Then place the drone in a takeoff spot. Then click finish on the app. The drones would then fly away.

Re:Shell Drone Station (1)

Hadlock (143607) | about 6 months ago | (#47328381)

Distributed drone delivery and refueling? Bit torrent for packages! Genius! Cut the US Postal service out of the snail mail business completely using technology in e-space and meat-space.

Re:Shell Drone Station (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 6 months ago | (#47329327)

What about Bittorrent for Bittorrent? Never underestimate the bandwidth of a drone full of Micro SD cards hurtling above the cityscape. Bonus: no wiretapping.

Re:Shell Drone Station (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47328039)

Innovative genius. Captain Obvious would like to award you the Nobel Peace Prize.

Re:Shell Drone Station (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 6 months ago | (#47328133)

I think you could do this same buisness with low tech. Just have a spot where worker scans a barcode on the drone, replaces the battery, and then checks a box on web form. Sort of a drone gass station.

Yea, but then they have to pay a human to work there, which, from what I gleaned off TFS, defeats the purpose.

Re:Shell Drone Station (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 6 months ago | (#47328253)

I suppose that is true if your trying to replace humans doing deliveries. Then it would not make a ton of sense unless the station stayed busy.

Re:Shell Drone Station (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 6 months ago | (#47328311)

Were I a bettin' man, I'd put my money on the notion that they're trying to get away from having to pay anybody other than suppliers and shareholders.

Re:Shell Drone Station (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 6 months ago | (#47328367)

lol I don't think Amazon pays a dividend. So you can remove shareholders from the list.

Re:Shell Drone Station (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 6 months ago | (#47328425)

So, that makes suppliers and... executive level management?

Yea, that's a sustainable business model. /sarc

Re:Shell Drone Station (1)

ScentCone (795499) | about 6 months ago | (#47329259)

lol I don't think Amazon pays a dividend. So you can remove shareholders from the list.

Shareholders also get paid by watching their shares become more valuable over time. They can sell them down the road, as they see fit. I don't get any Starbucks dividends, either - but what I own there is worth about 1000% more than when I bought. At some point, I'll cash it out, pay the long term capital gains taxes, and get one big ol' dividend for having owned a sliver of the company along the way. I don't feel the least bit troubled by the lack of a dividend in that stock.

Re:Shell Drone Station (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 6 months ago | (#47332253)

Sure but you buying or selling shares does not effect their balance sheet. Your not an expense. You don't show up on the books the way salary does. On the flip side, you are not paying Amazon money when their shares go down over time.

They do not want low tech. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47328445)

...and continuing their missions without human intervention. The next step in drone automation will probably be using driverless ground vehicles as drone launching and control stations.

In the 21st Century, when a new enterprise is created, making everything as automated as possible is the goal. The less people the better.

Jeff Bezos did it quick with Amazon. It has been estimated that to generate as much business as Amazon does with Mom&Pop businesses would require about one million people at various levels: handlers, stockers, bookkeepers, managers, accountants, IT people, etc ....

Amazon does it all with less than 30,000.

How Technology is destroying Jobs. [technologyreview.com]

Now, I am NOT suggesting we go back in time and eliminate automation or robots. Calling me a "Luddite" is asinine and completely inaccurate. And a cheap ad hominem shot

But we will have a problem of folks who cannot get work. Society only needs so many engineers and doctors and any other profession/work that has lower unemployment at this time.

For the first time in history, automation is replacing or lowering the demand for ALL workers. Why I was looking at the latest Visual Studio and what one programmer can do in a morning took four people a couple of weeks to do back in the win32/embedded SQL/write your own network communications layer days (early/mid 90's).

Automation has even effected programming jobs - it's not all off-shoring.

Folks have this very limited idea how automation effects employment - robots on the assembly line replacing unskilled workers - which is furthest from the truth.

It's affecting everyone - except the super rich (you cant automate capital and rents) - and we need to change our economy to handle what HAS come to pass.

Our unemployment figures will not get better - they APPEAR to get better because of the way our Government calculates the figure.

We have a severe structural problem that is caused not only by automation, but also by offshoring (all those folks exporting their poverty) and our aging society - I see MORE old people bagging groceries, waiting tables, and other min wage jobs than I have ever seen.

There are a lot of problems brewing and we need to get our heads out of our collectives asses because it is NOT like the Industrial Revolution were the displaced workers went somewhere else because there is nowhere else for them to go.

Things ARE different this time.

Bitcoin as payment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47329183)

You could exchange Bitcoin as payment for these services. Since its not technically a money, its property (so says the IRS), it shouldn't be a problem with the FAA. The FAA can't ban the exchange of property or else how does an airfield take in an airplane?

Nice, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47328065)

I'll wait for midair refueling.

Re:Nice, but... (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 6 months ago | (#47329507)

lasers that charge the drone on flyby?

Mini Aerial refuelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47328123)

Does anybody know if proper jet-fuel drones do aerial refuelling in miniature? That sounds kind of fun.

Been there, not quite done yet? (1)

spiritgreywolf (683532) | about 6 months ago | (#47329131)

DIY drone people have been playing around with this idea for a while. A neighbor of mine was playing with it over a year ago but lost interest. inductive charging for model quad-copters. Seems like Skysense is the first group to put it into practice with some $$$ behind it though.

Re:Been there, not quite done yet? (1)

spiritgreywolf (683532) | about 6 months ago | (#47329185)

And a youTube vid of other people that already did it. Hope Skysense didn't get a patent on it - unless it was earlier than these guys...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Re:Been there, not quite done yet? (1)

Roblimo (357) | about 6 months ago | (#47330337)

They claim a patent is pending.

Program them ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 6 months ago | (#47329193)

.. to perch on power lines.

Re:Program them ... (1)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about 6 months ago | (#47330641)

Actually, the US military has already been playing with drones like this that use inductive latch hooks to recharge off the local grid.

MatterNet Rooftop Stations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47329493)

Isn't this the basic infrastructure part of MatterNet? Distributed chargepoints, with a handy weather shelter hangar. Wonder if it uses Qi, though I bet it can't do fast charging.

Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47329567)

Why not just land the drone on a dock that switches the battery out instantly?
Having a drone as part of a hive swarm that does this would be far more advantageous.

How is commercial use of drones "against the law"? (1)

naughtynaughty (1154069) | about 6 months ago | (#47329619)

"Sadly, using drones for beer delivery is currently against the law in the USA" Perhaps someone can direct me to that law. The courts recently ruled that the FAA did not currently have the authority to ban commercial use of drones and fine those who flaunted the unlawful FAA rule.

I see a whole new way of stealing power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47330099)

I can imagine a drone with batteries flying to a power pole charging them and dropping them off. It would be relatively easy to hav it identify 250 volt lines and charge.

This is probably illegal but... (1)

wisebabo (638845) | about 6 months ago | (#47330963)

I thought they meant WIRELESS automated remote charging. Like as in a laser or microwave beam transmitting power to a drone to keep it flying indefinitely.

I was wondering how much power it would require to keep a relatively small drone (but still capable of carrying a decent camera and transmitter) aloft. Of course the drone would have to be equipped with some sort of receiver capable of converting the beamed energy (visible light? IR? microwave?) into electricity. By "power" I'm referring to the power of the beam as well as the power fed into the transmitter (more because of losses).

Would there be a 10:1 ratio of power fed into the transmitter: power converted into electricity? 2:1? 100:1? I assume the beamed power would be way beyond what is regarded as "safe", certainly for a visible light laser maybe not for microwave. (That's why I assume it would be illegal). On the other hand, I assume a reasonably simple pointing system on the ground station could illuminate the (not too big) receiving antennae on the drone and would be able to compensate for sudden gusts of wind, etc. Of course the drone would have a small reserve battery.

What would be the effective range for a (practical) system? 100m? 1km? 10km? Anyway, it could be an excellent observation/surveillance platform. Imagine having a permanent camera flying (lazy circles?) above your house. Maybe if it was robust (and safe!) enough, power could be beamed BETWEEN drones (or even from orbit) thus getting rid of any range restrictions. On the other hand, if the tracking was really good, perhaps the "ground" station could be mounted on a moving vehicle; that might make the kind of flying companion drone, as seen on the cartoon "Speed Racer" where we have a robotic bird following the car, practical.

A really sophisticated long range drone might even have power AND communications beamed on a tight microwave beam from a (BIG) antennae in geo-sync orbit. Being able to loiter at almost any altitude over any area for any length of time might make this very valuable to the military (And a big drone could, of course, carry weapons). On the other hand, if the transmitter/receiver/converter overhead wasn't too large, it could be used in the exploration of other worlds. NASA was recently talking about having a quadcopter drone combined with a balloon in Titan's atmosphere; the drone would have to periodically dock to recharge its battery from the nuclear generator on board the drone. Well, this would allow the drone to keep flying without docking.

Recharging drones. (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 6 months ago | (#47331275)

A while back, I was thinking about how to to make an ultra-long range drone. Like something I could send off on a mission, and expect it to come back on it's own later on. One of the ideas, if it were battery powered, was to instruct it to land on or near power lines. That would have been a nightmare to figure out though.

To be stealthy, it would need to fly around 5K to 10K feet. It wouldn't be able to approach ground level, except in uninhabited areas. There's no way you'd get a map of all the high tension power lines in the world, and I don't know of any method of detecting them miles away. Well, other than Hollywood magic methods, which unfortunately don't translate well to the real world. :)

To land on power lines or on the connecting towers, it would have to hover, which is battery expensive. Automatically picking an arbitrary landing spot isn't exactly easy. Once you're parked close to the power lines (like on them, or on the towers) inductive loops could handle farming electricity without human intervention or needing to deploy charging mats.

In the end, I gave up on the idea. I don't really have a reason to make one. If I did, and it worked, I'd have all the lovely three-letter-agencies knocking on my door to have a chat over a nice cup of tea.

Maybe "nice" would be optional in their opinion, and cup of tea would be room temp water in an interrogation room. Either way.

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