US Naval Research Lab Make History with Power-Beaming Laser

Pink and green laser lights

BETHESDA, MD — It may be nearly undetectable to the human eye, but for the first time ever scientists were able to create a long-range laser that could transmit 400 watts of power.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory researchers at that Naval Surface Warfare Center in Bethesda, Md. were able to send power by laser from one end of the largest test facilities for model ships in the world, to a receiver powering laptops, lights, and a coffeemaker on the other end, nearly 325 meters away.

“Power beaming, the concept, has been around for decades and there’ve been laboratory demonstrations, but this is really a first and a new technology that's getting fielded,” explained Tom Nugent, chief technology officer of PowerLight Technologies, the hardware provider for the Power Transmitted Over Laser (PTROL) project.

The uses for such technology are still yet to be determined, but some possibilities include sending power to remote locations or powering electric unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The next round of tests will focus on powering UAVs.

“If you have an electric drone that can fly more than an hour, you're doing pretty well,” Paul Jaffe, a researcher with NRL said. “If we had a way to keep those drones and UAVs flying indefinitely, that would have really far-reaching implications. With power beaming, we have a path toward being able to do that.”

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