Sci-Tech: An attempt to laser beam power a flying quadcopter for 2 days

Kansas City Space Pirates, a former competitor in the NASA sponsored Power Beaming Challenge, is attempting to break the 12 hours 27 minutes record set by LaserMotive in 2010 for the longest continually remote powered quadcopter in flight: Going for the record… – The Space Elevator Blog

They hope to go for up to 48 hours.

Updates at ISECdotORG (ISECdotORG) on Twitter.

The event is being webcast at BrianTurner on USTREAM

Update Sat. 9:05 pm EDT: In the comments, Ben Brockert reviews the problems the Pirates have had in getting a long run going. Currently they are up to around 3 hours. More at If at first you don’t succeed… – The Space Elevator Blog.

Update Sun 1:40 am EDT: The timer is nearly at 9 hours. They need to keep the quadcopter flying for 3.5 more hours to break the record.

Update Sun 5:20 pm EDT:  They are now currently up to 29 hours; [they stopped after 25 hours] more than double the LaserMotive record.

They get some local press attention: Kansas City team claims record for laser-powered drone flight –

Update Mon. 12: 40 pm ET: The clock I saw on the webcast must have continued running after the quadcopter beaming had stopped. The total time was in fact 25 hours, not 29. The following is from a post on the Kansas City Space Pirates homepage:

We successfully beat the Laser Powered flight endurance record by double. Our flight time was 25 hours, 0 Minutes and 35 seconds. This was done at the VOX theater in Kansas City Kansas. We used a highly modified AR-Drone Quadcopter. We did this with 500 watts of laser power and non-exotic photovoltaic cells. Our total systems hardware costs were less than $30,000. I estimate this is well less than 1/3 of the 2009 record. Much of the hardware would cost even less if purchased today. This shows the exponential increase in human technological abilities is alive and well and that commercial laser powered flight applications are only a few years away. We can look forward to flying cell towers, autonomous shark patrols and countless other applications that only become practical with beam powered flight.

Achieving the record was not without drama. The planed for 48 hours got trimmed back to 24. We continued to 25 so we could double the previous record. Turns out that human endurance plays a role as we became tired human mistakes became a prominent concern.  The lasers themselves worked flawlessly. The optics needed adjustment at the start. The quadcopter behaved like the finicky result of hacking a toy for purposes well beyond those it’s creators ever imagined.

3 thoughts on “Sci-Tech: An attempt to laser beam power a flying quadcopter for 2 days”

  1. They did one flight for an hour and a half that they stopped to adjust the laser beams. Then they did another run that went for two hours and ended up failing when the drone got increasingly unstable and eventually crashed. Then there was a third run that made it to 5:15:35 until they lost communication when they reorganized their computers and the drone auto-landed. So at the current rate of improvement they might make twelve hours on this run, but who knows. As of this comment it’s two and a half hours in.

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