WiBotic releases automatic drone charging pad

Today WiBotic – a Seattle-based company that specializes in advanced charging and power optimization systems for the rapidly expanding ecosystem of aerial, mobile, space and industrial robots – introduced PowerPad Pro, a stand-alone platform that can also seamlessly integrate into any existing hangar or other UAV storage facility. PowerPad Pro automatically charges drones without physical connection points, while wirelessly transferring flight data, images and video.

Figure 1: WiBotic PowerPad Pro with Drone
WiBotic’s new PowerPad Pro with a drone. | Source: WiBotic

“PowerPad Pro enhances drone functionality for our partners working in environments where autonomous or semi-autonomous operations are a priority,” Ben Waters, co-founder and CEO of WiBotic, said. “We designed it as a flexible solution for those who either already own and operate drones – and have their own infrastructure in place – or those who are looking for a more cost-effective option for fully autonomous operations. PowerPad Pro can be used as a stand-alone landing platform, or it can be integrated into any number of enclosures and form factors such as trailers, sheds, or even truck beds.”

One of WiBotic’s first partners for PowerPad Pro is Valmont Industries Inc., a global leader that provides vital infrastructure and advances agricultural productivity while driving innovation through technology.

“Valmont has been working closely with WiBotic and other partners to enhance our drone inspection capabilities,” Angi Chamberlain, VP of UAS Technology Solutions at Valmont, said. “For the first time, PowerPad Pro provides a charging platform that works with any of the different UAVs we use. Remote flight plan uploads and automated sensor data downloads also allow us to perform inspections on a moment’s notice at any location where the platform is deployed.”

Wireless Data Transfer

During battery charging, PowerPad Pro’s wireless data transfer enables UAVs to quickly and easily download flight and sensor data to an industrial computer inside the pad. The data can then be processed locally and/or automatically transmitted to a central location using LTE or long-range data backhaul radios.

Using the same wireless data link, remote operators can upload flight plans or monitor flights in real time, ensuring safe and controlled flights. Without this capability, high-resolution images, video and other data can quickly fill the UAV’s onboard storage. By removing this restriction, PowerPad Pro provides more flexibility and versatility in the missions that UAVs can perform.

Autonomous Charging

In addition to wireless data transfer, PowerPad Pro also automatically begins wireless battery charging upon landing. This eliminates the need for cables and connectors and allows different sizes and types of UAVs to share a common landing pad platform (or series of platforms) deployed across large areas.

Unlike contact-based charging stations, WiBotic’s patented technology provides power through the air. The pad is fully sealed to the elements, protecting both electronics and mechanical components from dust, debris, rain, insects and other environmental factors that may eventually impact reliability. Programmable voltage and current also help extend battery lifespan, reducing the need for costly battery replacements and maintenance.

Industry Benefits

By offering these dual benefits – wireless data transfer coupled with autonomous charging – PowerPad Pro dramatically enhances drone operations across a number of industries:

  • Energy & Utilities: Utility operators need data from infrastructure inspection every day – not once or twice a year. Permanently deployed UAVs with the ability to fly multiple repetitive missions, using one PowerPad Pro or a series of them over long distances, are critical for reducing inspection costs while increasing inspection frequency.
  • Construction: Remotely monitoring construction sites provides innumerable benefits in terms of safety, build quality and owner/builder/subcontractor relations. However, most construction data is extremely high bandwidth and getting it to engineers and project managers at remote locations is extremely difficult without a solution like PowerPad Pro.
  • Defense: Drones are frequently equipped with high-resolution cameras, infrared sensors and other advanced imaging equipment that gather terabytes of data. In a combat zone, however, it’s extremely dangerous to leave a protected vehicle to swap batteries or retrieve the SD cards that contain that data. A fully autonomous platform like PowerPad Pro ensures the warfighter remains protected while he or she gathers intelligence on enemy movements.
  • Agriculture: UAVs have made monitoring thousands of acres of farmland easier than ever before – but that’s not to say it’s easy. Drones still have limited flight time and limited onboard data storage. A network of strategically placed PowerPad Pros solves this problem by providing charging stations across the entire farm and an automatic backhaul of data to the farm HQ where it can be put to immediate use.

While these onboard chargers can be integrated into nearly any UAV, Wibotic is pleased to announce BlueHalo as the first partner for PowerPad Pro. The BlueHalo Intense Eye V2 (IE-V2) and E900 models can now be purchased with WiBotic’s PowerPad Pro to support both charging and data offload.

“BlueHalo provides UAVs to both the commercial and defense sectors, with extensive experience in applications ranging from inspection and monitoring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions,” Mary Clum, Sector President and Corporate Executive Vice President of BlueHalo, said. “There is a growing demand for permanently deployed and remotely controlled UAVs. PowerPad Pro has given us a single, reliable tool to integrate autonomous charging and data offload capabilities into our UAV platforms, allowing us to offer new solutions and better support critical customer missions.”

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