DARPA and TTO looking for Wireless In-Flight Drone Recharging technologies

Global Hawk air refueling

On Jun 13 2022 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) published on the SAM.gov website a request for information (RFI) for an “Airborne Energy Well” technology.

According to the description of RFI an “Airborne Energy Well” technology should be adaptable by existing aerial refueling aircraft (specifically the fleet of KC-46 and KC-135) to expand their role as an Airborne Energy Well capable of transferring power to future Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) assets via laser energy beaming technologies.

DARPA awaits responses from all interested private or public companies, individuals, universities, university-affiliated research centers, not-for-profit research institutions, and U.S. Government-sponsored labs till 11 July 2022, by 4:00 PM ET.

The responses should cover all the following areas:

  • Energy generation: Responses should identify the existing or required additional equipment utilized in an Airborne Energy Well aircraft selected as well as include an initial approximation of the limits of energy generation. The energy generation solution should have sufficient power for a 100 kW or greater continuous wave laser as well as the thermal control for integrating the laser on the existing DoD aircraft.
  • Energy transfer: Reponses should identify the specific laser solution capable of +100 kW for a selected Airborne Energy Well aircraft and identify the equipment (existing and/or modified to the aircraft) required to efficiently provide beam forming and steering of the laser energy to remote locations and covering a nearly hemispherical field of regard.
  • Adaptation and employment: Responses should include technologies of significant technical readiness (Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 or higher) for adaptation and development of the Airborne Energy Well concept; assess the confidence of industry in designing, fabricating, and testing of all components and subsystems; and identify the benefits and challenges in adapting equipment and missions to the Airborne Energy Well role.