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Laser charging gives Lockheed Martin's Stalker drone 'practically unlimited' flight time

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Lockheed Martin, with the assistance of LaserMotive, demonstrated its Stalker drone flying for a continuous 48 using a laser-based charging system.

AeroVironment Puma drone
AeroVironment Puma drone

If the privacy issues surrounding aerial drones have you worried, then Lockheed Martin's recent demonstration of a Stalker drone charged by lasers likely won't change that. The company flew its 13.2-pound surveillance drone in a wind tunnel while a laser system from a company called LaserMotive wirelessly transferred power to it. After 48 hours of continuous flight, the drones' batteries were far from depletion — they actually had more electricity stored than when the tests began. Tom Koonce, Stalker program manager, said "[a] ground-to-air recharging system like this allows us to provide practically unlimited flight endurance to extend and expand the mission profiles that the Stalker vehicle can fulfill."

As impressive a test result as this is, LaserMotive's laser charging system still has yet to be used in the field. LaserMotive president Tom Nugent said "[the] next step in proving the reality of this technology is to demonstrate it outdoors in an extended flight of the Stalker." While line-of-sight is an obvious limitation in a laser-based recharging system, anything that offers "unlimited flight endurance" is sure to have defense contractors excited.