UAVs. When the X-37B launches on May 16, it will carry a technology that could eventually allow drones to stay aloft indefinitely anywhere on the globe.
While most of the payloads set for the flight are standard fare for space experiments.
One of them has immense potential implications for the future of remote power generation and especially long-endurance unmanned aircraft propulsion.
According to a Space Force press release, the payload will be an experimental system designed by the Naval Research Laboratory that is capable of capturing solar power and beaming that energy back to Earth in the form of microwaves.
This system has enormous implications when it comes to long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
In addition, it could allow satellites to provide reliable power anywhere on the planet or even to spacecraft or other satellites in orbit.
As far as the aforementioned applications of this capability, research or military outposts in remote locations would no longer have to rely on low-power solar systems or haul heavy generators and large amounts of fuel.
Instead could bring a rectifying antenna, or rectenna, to capture energy in the form of microwaves beamed from satellites overhead.
It could even power autonomous ships at sea.
The China Academy of Space Technology claimed to already be testing such a system in 2019 and said that a fully-functional Chinese microwave beaming power station in space could be deployed by 2050.
Future of UAVs
This technology has massive implications not only for the future of UAVs, but for all of mankind.
Such a system could be used to keep UAVs in the air for very long periods of time to replace cell towers or communications satellites in the event of a crisis in a region or even for normal operations of increasingly complex communications networks.
Unlike a tethered aerostat, these UAVs would require far less infrastructure, could be moved around at will for optimum coverage, and could land quickly for servicing.
They could even deploy dozens of miles, or even further, away from their base stations.
With a space-based power source, they could fly anywhere on earth.
The microwave system is testing could change the game for many military and commercial-related applications.
And open the door for near-continuous unmanned flight throughout the atmosphere.
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