IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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Aquila's laser tech powers non-stop drone flights in landmark trial
Wed, 24th Jan 2024

Aquila, an AU-NZ deep tech startup, is on a mission to power drones indefinitely following a successful trial at Latrobe Regional Airport, which signifies the start of an exciting trajectory for the company in 2024. The pioneering technology developed by the team uses laser beams to wirelessly charge drones while in flight, a concept which forms part of a much grander vision to alter energy distribution as we know it.

The groundbreaking trial marked a significant step in utilising the Lightway technology as it wirelessly charged a drone from a staggering 50m distance, a feat over ten times greater than similar past attempts. Lightway facilitates the transmission of light beams from a ground-based transmitter to a solar cell receiver affixed to a drone, allowing its mid-air charging. This represents the debut component of Aquila's grand scheme to cultivate wireless energy technology on a large scale, aiming to power the globe with cheap, green energy.

Billy Jeremijenko, the co-founder of Aquila, commented that this type of trial proves that Lightway can effectively allow DJI and other smaller drones to fly indefinitely. Additionally, with the rapid progress in development, there is a promising future for doing the same for larger drones, providing substantial enhancements in areas such as asset management, search and rescue missions, and coastal surveillance.

"We are scaling fast," noted Jeremijenko, "We are focused on scaling our power transfer so we can keep larger drones in the air forever because that has huge benefits for efficiency in asset management and safety in remote sites and public places like beaches."

With its recent acceptance into the Creative Disruption Lab and its participation in the KPMG Future Technology Program, 2024 looks set to be a prosperous year for Aquila. Upcoming plans include a brand and website revamp and a deepening collaboration with Surf Life Saving New Zealand to power coastal surveillance drones. Aquila's efforts are supported by Blackbird, Possible, and Icehouse Ventures.

Offering his support, the Mayor of Latrobe City Council, Councillor Darren Howe, said, "The Latrobe Aerospace Technology Precinct at Latrobe Regional Airport supports innovation in our industry and region and aligns to our Transition Plan. It is our pleasure to support the Aquila team in their work, which can potentially provide significant gains to our industry and, therefore, to our community."

Furthermore, Luke Preston, Quickstep Head of Technology and Partnerships, expressed admiration for the way Aquila is addressing the issue of drone range anxiety and battery life, explaining, "It is really exciting for drone makers like us to see this sort of game-changing technology, which can potentially transform how we power and use drones."

Ultimately, Aquila's breakthrough trial denotes the beginning of a journey to revolutionise energy provision, starting with everlasting drone flights, yet with the intention of expanding this technology to deliver a global network of limitless clean energy.