Laser Aircraft Refueling: Power Transfer Beams?

Laser aircraft refueling is a unique approach to the problem of providing aircraft with power. Since aircraft must also lift their fuel tanks, it presents severe limitations to designers.

Taysir Nayfeh and colleagues at Cleveland State University have devised a way of refuelling aircraft using a high-powered laser to recharge on-board batteries. If an aircraft is fitted with the appropriate panels, up to 60% of the incident laser light can be converted to electricity for power.

Their patent shows a laser guided by a GPS transmittter in the plane.

(Power transfer beam)

In the world of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Galaxy-class starships can transfer energy to other ships using a power transfer beam. This is illustrated above as the USS Enterprise-D gives power to a Romulan warbird.

Update: I forgot to link to this article describing the first flight of a laser-powered airplane.

From HIGH INTENSITY LASER POWER BEAMING RECEIVER FOR SPACE AND TERRESTRIAL APPLICATIONS (patent application) via New Scientist. Thanks to Moira for the tip and the reference on this story. [ MOIRA - I need the reference for the Pentagon UV grenade story! Thanks. ]

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