Two videos made available in the last two days highlight different approaches to recharging an electric airplane in mid-air, one for a full-size, trans-Atlantic flight attempt, and the other for a miniature drone which could fly persistently in a battle zone. Both have been reported in this blog recently, but without the helpful animation.
VIDEO WITHDRAWN BY REQUEST
(PLEASE NOTE: Chip Yates sent the following message today, August 23: “The video of the mid air recharging was done without any involvement from us and by some unknown third party. We have no knowledge of how that video came to be or why the plane is flying backwards. Please make it clear to your readers that this is an unauthorized video done by some enthusiast and not our plan whatsoever!”
Chip Yates’ Flight of the Century proposes staging a series of autonomous drones on mid-ocean platforms to recharge a larger airplane by climbing up to and docking with it as it passes overhead. The video shows the so-called “hard docking” maneuver, which would require the recharging drones to land on the “mothership,” and recharge the record-attempt airplane’s batteries. TFOC is also considering a “soft tether” approach, which would use a probe-and-drogue type of connection to transfer power from the drone to the large aircraft.
Lockheed Martin recharged their Stalker unmanned aerial vehicle with laser power from Seattle’s LaserMotive, managing a 48-hour indoor flight. The video shows how it’s done, and promises extreme endurance for otherwise limited-range small reconnaissance craft.