WiBotic — a maker of wireless charging and fleet energy management solutions for aerial, mobile, marine, and industrial robots — partnered with Astrobotic, Bosch, and the University of Washington to develop and commercialize wireless charging solutions for robots on the Moon.

WiBotic is developing rapid charging systems and energy monitoring base stations for lunar robots including the CubeRover — a shoebox-sized robot designed by Astrobotic — that will operate autonomously and charge wirelessly on the Moon. Bosch researchers are contributing software expertise in wireless connectivity and intelligent AI and the University of Washington will contribute its Sensor Systems Lab to help support realistic lunar environment testing and validation.

Traditionally, lunar landers — as well as other large space exploration vehicles — are powered by solar arrays or small nuclear reactors. Rovers and small robots, however, are not big enough to carry their own dedicated power supplies and must be tethered to their larger counterparts via electrical cables. Tethering severely restricts mobility, and cables are prone to failure due to lunar dust (regolith) interfering with electrical contact points. Additionally, as robots become smaller and more complex, they are fitted with additional sensors that require more power, further exacerbating the problem. Lastly, solar arrays are not viable for charging during the lunar night.

The Astrobotic CubeRover at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The regolith bin simulates the mechanical properties of the Moon’s surface. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

WiBotic’s rapid proximity charging solution enables smaller robots to wirelessly charge from lunar landers — equipped with docking stations or base stations deployed across the lunar surface — without the need for tethering. With WiBotic’s technology, self-navigating robots can stay warm and function during the lunar night. Surviving the lunar night is a significant challenge and systems that do survive are complex, heavy, and redundant. NASA’s Artemis Program aims to solve this problem by using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before.

WiBotic’s technology — already in use by commercial and military customers — is positioned to address the problem of protection against dust, a particular challenge for robots operating in harsh environments. Exposed contacts and connectors have proven unreliable on lunar surfaces where regolith is finer and more conductive than dust on Earth. With WiBotic’s charging solution, robots can charge without making contact, even if they do not dock with perfect alignment. The technology also can be used to charge instruments without connecting cords.

WiBotic’s standard wireless charging systems include components needed to autonomously charge a single robot, drone, or other battery-powered device. (Credit: WiBotic)

By removing dependency on solar charging, a wide range of opportunities for smaller and lighter systems becomes available for missions that were not within reach before, such as survival of lunar night missions. The wireless technology platform is scalable and supports a wide range of power needs for new space electrical systems and infrastructures.

A longer-term goal is to create a lunar wireless power grid to supply energy for a wide range of both manned and unmanned vehicles, irrespective of their individual battery types, voltages, or required power levels. This would be the first step in creating a common infrastructure of wireless charging stations and energy management software to be deployed across the surface of the Moon.

WiBotic CEO, Dr. Ben Waters, will discuss this technology on June 15 during Battery Technology’s online Battery and Electrification Summit. Learn more here.

For more information on WiBotic, visit here .


Battery Technology Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2021 issue of Battery Technology Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.