New tests suggest that once a drone takes off, it may be a while before it has to land. The U.S. military has shown how drones can refuel while in the air. This ability has sparked discussions of so-called flying gas stations to be used over areas of combat in the future.
“The goal of this demonstration was to create the expectation that future [High Altitude Long Endurance] aircraft will be refueled in flight,” said Jim McCormick, program manager at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Initially, DARPA had low expectations in regard to drones refueling midair. But it has been able to reach success rates of about 60 percent.
New technology is in the works for drones. The Stalker, a small battery-powered drone, could be recharged midair with lasers.
“This test is one of the final steps in bringing laser-powered flight to the field,” said Tom Nugent, president of LaserMotive. “By enabling in-flight recharging, this system will ultimately extend capabilities, improve endurance and enable new missions for electric aircraft.”