University of Illinois at Chicago developing autonomous drone charging technology

The Army Research Laboratory collaborates with the University of Illinois Chicago on research to develop algorithms that help small drones autonomously return to unmanned ground vehicles for recharging. Photo courtesy: University of Illinois at Chicago

Drones continue to be the rage among technophiles. Developers continually work to make unmanned aircraft systems more energy efficient, which will allow them to prove valuable in even more applications. The University of Illinois at Chicago received $8 million in funding from the Army Research Laboratory for a power technology project to enable autonomous drone recharging.

  • The university is developing route-planning algorithms that will lead to software to help swarms of small, battery-powered drones autonomously return from military missions to unmanned ground vehicles for recharging.

  • Wireless power transfer technologies and fast-charging batteries will let multiple drones hover near the ground vehicles to charge without human involvement.

  • The route optimization extends the drones’ range of service and prevents the need for human soldiers to carry thousands of spare batteries.

  • Related research for larger drones examines the development of miniature fuel sensors for future hybrid-electric propulsion systems, which will increase performance and reliability while preventing catastrophic fuel system failures.

🌱 BIOMATERIALS: A $9 million grant from the National Science Foundation will fund the development of plant-based inks to 3D print low-cost, biodegradable, and recyclable sensors and batteries for electronics. The project’s researchers hail from the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Iowa State University.

🌬️ WIND: Overland Park, Kansas, wind and hydrogen technology company WindSoHy notices renewed interest in compressed air energy storage technology, reports Utility Dive. The company’s CEO credits the uptick on cheaper wind power and recent research advances showing pressurized air can be stored in depleted gas wells.

🚗 EVs: Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based EVoCharge is one of the initial participants in the EV Connect electric vehicle charging station partner program. The program is intended to help EV firms ramp up charging station access and reliability, reduce downtime, and speed maintenance through industry collaboration and data sharing.

🚜 AGRICULTURE:

  • Minneapolis-based agronomic data software company Sentera is partnering with St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch on advanced remote sensor technology to forecast nitrogen demand in rice crops. The system optimizes nitrogen fertilizer use, which is more environmentally conscious and prevents excess nitrogen runoff in waterways.

  • Google’s Alphabet launched Mineral, a project using data-collecting agricultural robotics to improve farming sustainability, reports Chicago Inno. Illinois soybean fields are one of the two testing grounds so far.

🔀 REBRANDING: National Grid launched National Grid Renewables, a new brand name for Minneapolis-based Geronimo Energy, which it acquired last year. The renewable energy business will include solar, onshore wind, and battery storage.


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