DARPA chooses Silent Falcon drone for power beaming tests


The USA’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency has selected the Silent Falcon unmanned aircraft as the testbed for its SUPER PBD project.

The Stand-off Ubiquitous Power/Energy Replenishment – Power Beaming Demo (SUPER PBD) project is developing a laser capable of recharging an unmanned aircraft while it is flying, to remove the need for them to refuel.

The Silent Falcon is a fixed wing, long range solar electric powered UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) manufactured by a company with the same name in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The carbon fiber UAS can fly for up to five hours and has a range of 100km (62 miles) and is equipped with a mesh network, wave relay communication system. It has thin film photo voltaic solar energy panels and a lithium polymer battery for energy storage.

Joseph Abate, SUPER PBD’s lead researcher from DARPA, said, “We believe that this project will demonstrate that remote electric refueling of Department of Defense systems via high energy laser power beaming to extend mission operation time in contested and remote environments can be delivered to the war fighter in the near future.”

John Brown, Silent Falcon’s Chairman, said, “We are extremely fortunate to partner with DARPA in this first of its kind demonstration of new and innovative UAS technologies. The SUPER PBD project will set the stage for future applications of the power beaming capabilities and further demonstrates the versatility of the technology embedded in the Silent Falcon, the only solar electric, long range, long endurance UAS.”

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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