Not only might drones one day be delivering our packages, they also might be delivering our energy. UK-based New Wave Energy wants to deploy a network of drones at a high altitude to harvest solar and wind energy in order to help end dependency on the traditional power grid.
Company founder Michael Burdett, also New Wave Energy’s director, had the idea and vision for these drone power-plant networks about 10 years ago, but the company itself was not founded until March 2012. Since then it has developed the foundational technology to make Burdett’s vision a reality. It is currently seeking funding to take things to the next level. As outlined on the company’s website, New Wave Energy’s vision is to leverage airspace above 50,000 feet for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to harvest wind and solar energy. This altitude was chosen because there “wind patterns are more reliable, solar production is greater, and there is little or no interference from weather patterns,” according to the website. These power-collecting drones can then connect wirelessly to each other, creating a high-altitude power plant for distributing and creating energy.
To take the energy harvested and reuse it on the ground, New Wave plans to install antenna arrays either on land or on offshore installations to receive the electromagnetic waves transmitted from the drones and convert them into energy. “As a high-altitude power plant we aim to construct a large wireless network for full-scale energy generation, creating wireless links and distribution between many smaller power plants,” according to the New Wave Energy website. “This not only adds a large amount of redundancy within the project but also creates power plants, which will be clean and invisible to the naked eye.”
The drones themselves will measure about 65 feet square and have four rotors, as well as multiple wind turbines and a flat base for generating solar power. Not only will the UAVs harvest energy -- about 50 kilowatts -- to be transmitted and reused on the ground, but also power themselves with the energy they create. The company lays out a detailed case on its website for the benefits a power plant in the air would provide, including using land where solar panels would be on the ground for other purposes, and providing an energy supply to remote places -- including disaster sites where the power grid is damaged or fails due to a catastrophic event. “As a remote energy source we can create a rapid supply of energy to remote locations, areas affected by earthquakes, floods, or other natural disasters,” according to the New Wave Energy website. “It is with this kind of application we can not only produce renewable energy on-demand but use it to help saves lives around the world.”