RTX, Draper and Beam Co. have won contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to design relay technologies to serve as the foundation of an airborne wireless energy distribution concept.
DARPA said Thursday the three companies will develop conceptual designs of the Persistent Optical Wireless Energy Relay and perform benchtop tests under the POWER program’s first phase, which the agency estimates will take 20 months to complete.
“Each of the selected teams proposed unique technical approaches to the power beaming relay problem, ranging from novel combinations of existing technologies to high-risk, high-reward technological innovations,” remarked Paul Jaffe, a program lead at DARPA.
In phase one, the agency will evaluate proposed relays against criteria such as energy redirection and harvesting and beam quality wavefront correction.
The initial contracts have a three-month option for the project teams to perform additional risk reduction work.
For the second phase, DARPA plans to launch an open solicitation process in 2025 to integrate relay system components onto an airborne platform for a low-power transfer demonstration.
The agency envisions the third and final stage of its POWER effort presenting an optical pathway to transmit 10 kilowatts of energy to a receiver on the ground that is approximately 124 miles away from a ground-sourced laser.
“A wireless energy web could unlock power from new and diverse sources, including from space, and rapidly and reliably connect them to energy-starved consumers,” Jaffe added.