3-D wireless power grid

By the end of this decade, we will have laid the foundations for a three-dimensional wireless power grid, both terrestrial and orbital. Startups are working on wireless-energy beaming to drones to allow perpetual flight operations. Similar work is also underway to power rovers and other assets on the dark side of the moon.

Beaming power over long distances may sound like science fiction, but directed-energy technologies have been researched for decades. (Perhaps the most notorious example being President Reagan’s Star Wars program in the 1980s.) The resurgence of military research and resources into laser technologies results from the ongoing hypersonics arms race. To defend against something that fast and maneuverable requires an expensive, even faster, hypersonic seeker. Kinetic defeat is a numbers game that leads to bankruptcy. What if, instead, there was a laser that could penetrate thermal protection systems? The speed of light is faster than the speed of sound, and you would only have to manufacture the laser once, opting out of the numbers game for defensive systems.

These technologies can be tuned down and repurposed for civilian commercial applications. There are many startups working on this now. The technology will unlock the next generation of Urban Air Mobility designs that can carry more payload because they need less batteries. We imagine 3-D power “highway corridors” for autonomous air delivery, electric regional aircraft, and persistent drone monitoring for forest fires. The future is powerful.