When Hurricane Sandy swept across the East Coast last year, millions of people were without power after the initial onslaught of the storm. Restoring power takes time, but leaving people in the dark is never a good option. What if there was a way to give people the electricity they need while technicians work on downed power lines and boxes? What if drones could take to the skies and convert solar and wind energy to electricity for the people on Earth below it? That’s exactly what UK-based New Wave Energy hopes to do with its solar and wind collecting drones. That’s right, drones aren't just for warfare and delivering your Amazon packages any more.
New Wave Energy’s concept starts like this: drones equipped with solar panels and small wind turbines fly above Earth’s surface, to about 50,000 feet (this keeps them out of the way of existing air traffic). Those drones collect solar and wind energy, and then, using microwaves, beams that electricity back to the Earth via ground-based antennas while siphoning off a little bit to keep themselves aloft. The ground antennas the convert the microwave energy into electric power and feed it into the grid.
The concept does have its flaws, however. Each drone is only capable of generating 50kW of power, which means that a large city would need thousands of drones to power it. Obviously, building that many drones could get expensive, but something like this could serve as a great back-up source of energy in times of crisis because it can be deployed quickly with an infrastructure that's inherently mobile. Certainly, victims of Hurricane Sandy’s massive electrical outages could have benefited from such a system, and these drones should be considered for future outages.
The company will take to Kickstarter soon to fund their project. If all goes well and they reach their goal of $500,000, they hope to have electricity-generating drones in the air in about six months.
Via Extreme Tech