Lockheed Martin and LaserMotive have conducted a series of recent proof-of-concept tests on the Stalker unmanned aerial system (UAS) to further evaluate performance of its integrated laser power system.
The demonstrations represent the first-ever outdoor flight test of a laser powered UAS, and follow wind tunnel testing in July, when the system’s ability to extend the flight time of Stalker to more than 48 hours was confirmed.
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works Stalker programme manager Tom Koonce said that recent proof-of-concept tests were conducted in a remote desert location, where environmental factors such as wind and heat remained constant.
"Not only did we demonstrate that the laser powered Stalker could perform well in this type of environment, we flew during both day and night without incident," Koonce added.
LaserMotive president Tom Nugent added: "Wireless power via laser is an important emerging technology, and I look forward to continuing to work together to further prove this technology in future experiments."
A lightweight photovoltaic receiver and on-board power management hardware were integrated into the UAS during tests, while the ground-based laser transmitter was based on LaserMotive’s hardware developed for the 2009 NASA Centennial Challenge.
The tests demonstrated the laser’s ability to power Stalker in flight, at ranges of up to 600m, without interfering with UAS normal flight operations or aerodynamics.
Flight tests also met entire operational and safety requirements, including coordination with the Laser Clearinghouse and flight operations.
Developed by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the Stalker is a hand-launched and belly landed, stealthy UAS operated by US Special Operations Forces in support of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions since 2006.