Laser-powered helicopter breaks flight record

Nov. 4, 2010
Kent, WA – LaserMotive, an R&D company specializing in laser power beaming, set a world record on October 28 by flying a small quadrocopter for more than 12 hours with the help of lasers from the ground.

Kent, WA – LaserMotive, an R&D company specializing in laser power beaming, set a world record on October 28 by flying a small quadrocopter—the Asctec Pelican—for more than 12 hours with the help of lasers from the ground. The previous record for laser-powered flight was 6 hours.

The flight was undertaken at the Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo, WA by LaserMotive with its partner, robotic helicopter manufacturer Ascending Technologies (Krailling, Germany)—it was the longest laser powered flight on record at 12 hours, 26 minutes and 56.9 seconds. Last year LaserMotive was the winner of the 2009 NASA-sponsored Power Beaming Competition.

LaserMotive powered the AscTec Pelican with a proprietary system of mirrors and lenses on the ground that beamed the laser up to the helicopter 30 ft overhead, where the laser charged photovoltaic cells on the underside of the craft. Ascending Technologies developed the charging electronics and the autonomous control for the AscTec Pelican to let it fly free without any human interaction within a square of 2 by 2 m during its flight.

"Today's flight represents an importance achievement for the future of flight," said Tom Nugent, president and CEO of LaserMotive. "What LaserMotive and Ascending Technologies accomplished today has never been done in the history of flight, and the potential impact is enormous, not only as an endless source of power for air and space craft but for opening up new capabilities for them as well."

"We are pleased to have been partner in this historic occasion," said Jan Stumpf, CEO of Ascending Technologies. "All systems worked perfectly during the night long experiment. We are very happy that our AscTec Pelican proved its quality and flexibility again in a very demanding experiment."

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About the Author

Stephen G. Anderson | Director, Industry Development - SPIE

 Stephen Anderson is a photonics industry expert with an international background and has been actively involved with lasers and photonics for more than 30 years. As Director, Industry Development at SPIE – The international society for optics and photonics – he is responsible for tracking the photonics industry markets and technology to help define long-term strategy, while also facilitating development of SPIE’s industry activities. Before joining SPIE, Anderson was Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World and chaired the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar. Anderson also co-founded the BioOptics World brand. Anderson holds a chemistry degree from the University of York and an Executive MBA from Golden Gate University.    

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