World's first aircraft system powered by laser over fiber flying this week

LaserMotive, Kent, WA, unveiled what it says is the world’s first, tethered vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft system powered by laser over optical fiber. Called InvisiTower, the portable system can power any multi-rotor helicopter indefinitely using laser power sent via fiber optic cable, enabling aircraft to stay in the air as long as power is available on the ground, according to the company.

The first public flight of an aircraft (a small quadrocopter) powered by the new system is scheduled to take place this week at the SPIE Defense, Security & Sensing tradeshow at the Baltimore Convention Center.

“The beauty of the InvisiTower system is that it allows unlimited flight even in small systems because fiber optics are much lighter than copper wires,” said Tom Nugent, president and CEO of LaserMotive, in a press release. “In addition, it is safer because the fiber cable is nonconductive—it won't conduct lightning or short out power lines—and no high voltages are needed. The laser energy is completely contained, and interlocked in case the cable is damaged, so there are no laser safety issues.”

The system is small enough to fit in the back of an SUV, and does not require a pilot to fly—just someone to monitor the video coming from it, according to LaserMotive.

InvisiTower is based on LaserMotive’s Power over Fiber system announced earlier this year, which takes LaserMotive’s free-space laser power beaming systems that has demonstrated the ability to deliver power to mobile robots and UAVs and sends the laser light over optical fiber. Power over Fiber can deliver power over long distances safely and without interference in the presence of high voltages, RF fields and electromagnetic pulses, or strong magnetic fields, according to the company.

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