Flying batteries: In-flight battery switching to increase multirotor flight time

September 22, 2019

Flying batteries: In-flight battery switching to increase multirotor flight time -- High Performance Robotics Laboratory (HiPeRLab), UC Berkeley - hiperlab.berkeley.edu UPDATE: This work has been accepted to ICRA 2020, and a post-peer-review version of the related article is available at: https://arxiv.org/abs/1909.10091 We present a novel approach to increase the flight time of a multirotor via mid-air docking and in-flight battery switching. A main quadcopter flying using a primary battery has a docking platform attached to it. A ‘flying battery’ – a small quadcopter carrying a secondary battery – is equipped with docking legs that can mate with the main quadcopter’s platform. Connectors between the legs and the platform establish electrical contact on docking, and enable power transfer from the secondary battery to the main quadcopter. A custom-designed circuit allows arbitrary switching between the primary battery and secondary battery. We demonstrate the concept in a flight experiment involving repeated docking, battery switching, and undocking. The experiment increases the flight time of the main quadcopter by a factor of 4.7× compared to solo flight, and 2.2× a theoretical limit for that given multirotor. Importantly, this increase in flight time is not associated with a large increase in overall vehicle mass or size, leaving the main quadcopter in fundamentally the same safety class. The complete 57 minute flight video can be found here: https://youtu.be/TTzGrhY1gyk Researchers: Karan P. Jain Mark W. Mueller Video: Karan P. Jain Acknowledgement: Minos Park and other members of HiPeRLab Funding: NAVER LABS

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