Tech Exchange

Power Beaming for Small Robots and Remote Instruments

The NASA Ames Intelligent Robo - tics Group (IRG) is dedicated to enabling humans and robots to explore and learn about extreme environments, remote locations, and uncharted worlds. The IRG conducts applied research in a wide range of areas, with an emphasis on robotics systems science and field testing.

Powering small robots and instruments in remote locations is complex. Batteries run out, requiring some of the battery capacity to be used for return to base for power up. Wires are heavy, bulky, have a limited length, and can catch on debris between the robot and the home base.

The ability to wirelessly power robots and instruments will allow the robots to travel farther from base than otherwise possible.

NASA Needs

The IRG is interested in potential technologies to transmit up to 1 kW of power to small robots or remote instruments, to a distance of up to 10 km away. Constraints:

  • Minimum of 1 kW collected by remote receiver
  • Maximum range to 10 km
  • Weight and volume requirements TBD Solution Identification Suggestions: Two methods of transmitting power without wires have been identified:
  • Electromagnetic waves — specifically RF or microwaves.
  • Light — specifically lasers or high intensity light.

Commercial Applications

Wireless connectivity will be commercially useful in several areas:
  • Power transmission lines, especially in uneven terrain (such as deep ravines) where installation of physical lines is difficult or dangerous. This potential use would require the ability to transmit significantly more power and a much more efficient receiver.
  • Power transmission to control small robots or remote instruments in scientific study (e.g., the Antarctic), industrial areas (e.g., oil exploration), and military applications.
  • Wireless home electronics.
  • Toys, such as radio-controlled airplanes.
  • Industrial manufacturing systems, such as a carrier that moves along a linear track. Currently, the motor requires a heavy power line that reaches to the end of the track, which must be coiled as it returns. That wire can be eliminated.

More Information

For more information, contact Julia Rivera- Mendez at 650-604-5761, or visit nasa@ techbriefs.com.