Wireless Charging for Drones

Drones face a significant operating challenge—their limited battery capacity places a constraint on their flight time. More flexible and efficient recharging solutions can address this issue. A 4-year old startup, WiBotic, now has funding to explore this avenue. WiBotic designs and manufactures solutions to charge robot and drone batteries.

WiBotic offers power optimization and wireless charging solutions for mobile, aerial, marine, and industrial robots. Their Adaptive Matching technology is a new method for inductive power transfer. The company is providing power levels necessary for charging flying devices such as drones.

Software libraries monitor battery charge parameters in detail for providing optimization solutions. Combined with wireless charging hardware, the strategic deployment of these software features helps with the optimization of drone uptime. Wireless charging solutions from WiBotic also schedule the recharge, allowing multiple drones to charge from the same transmitter at various times.

Nikola Tesla was the first to demonstrate, in the late nineteenth century, the use of electromagnetic fields as a source of electricity transfer without wires. Although engineers are aware of the wireless methodology, the design of an entire system consisting of transmitters and receivers, their locations, and maximizing their efficiency is a complex challenge requiring specific skills. Most wireless power transfer systems use inductive coupling or magnetic resonance with their individual strengths and weaknesses.

Inductive coupling is the most common method, usually found on consumer devices. However, they are efficient only when the transmitter and the receiver antennas are close together. Therefore, this method is not suitable for drones and robots as they cannot position themselves so that their inductive systems are close enough to provide a reliable power transfer.

The technology of magnetic resonance is one of the latest providing more flexibility in positioning. Most magnetic resonance systems have a special area for delivering power with maximum efficiency. If the robot or the drone stops in this area only briefly or remains off-center, the charging efficiency reduces, and the charging time increases.

WiBotic technology incorporates the best of both systems and operates on the strengths of both resonant and inductive systems. They have a patented Adaptive Matching system to constantly monitor relative antenna positions, while dynamically adjusting both hardware and firmware parameters for maintaining maximum efficiency. This ensures delivery of high-power levels and reliable charging, even when several centimeters of angular, horizontal, or vertical offsets separate the transmitter and the receiver.

For drones, the WiBotic wireless charging station is a square platform of about 3 ft x 3 ft. It has an intelligent induction plate that determines the type of battery the drone has and establishes the proper charging parameters for it.

WiBotic wireless charging systems all have four primary hardware components—the transmitter antenna coil, the receiver antenna coil, the on-board charging unit, and the transmitter unit.

Using an AC source, the transmitting unit produces a high-frequency wireless signal, that travels to the transmitting antenna coil and generates electric and magnetic fields.

The transmitter unit has the capability to recognize an incoming drone equipped with a receiver antenna coil, which automatically activates itself to receive the right amount of energy.