This Stalker drone stays airborne using laser power

Posted by Shane McGlaun

Unmanned aerial vehicles have seen extensive deployment in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The UAVs are routinely used for a wide range of ops, including recon and even missile strikes against armed combatants in hard to reach areas.

One of the smaller drones that has been deployed overseas is designed by Lockheed Martin and dubbed "The Stalker."

Interestingly enough, Lockheed recently conducted a test in cooperation with a company known as LaserMotive using a modified Stalker drone.

Essentially, the drone was modded to capture power from a laser beam aimed at a specific point on the aircraft. The test flight was conducted indoors using a wind tunnel and in testing, the aircraft managed to stay aloft for 48 hours straight.

According to military researchers, the modded Stalker could have stayed airborne indefinitely - if it was continuously powered by the laser beam.

To be sure, the test was only halted because the aircraft had already passed all initial endurance goals set by the team.

The Stalker aircraft is normally powered by a rechargeable battery and according to Lockheed, the battery actually had more power when the test ended than at the start.

Putting the cool factor aside for moment, it is probably worth noting that the US Army might have some difficulty keeping a laser trained on the drone during heavy combat on an actual battlefield.

I also wonder how Lockheed would tackle the problem of an aircraft turning and banking away from the laser beam. Presumably, the laser would be only be capable of charging the battery while the aircraft is moving in a straight line during level flight.