It’s well-known in the recent history of transformative technology that many innovations first came as military breakthroughs. Radar, microwave radiation, GPS and the Internet, for example, had a profound impact on warcraft before they so dramatically altered society and consumerism. Now, we may be able to add one more military technology to the list.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as drones, have triggered no small amount of controversy. Popular notions of drones killing innocent civilians in far off battlefields or as sinister devices that will be used to violate personal privacy abound.
At least one company sees beyond these negative connotations and hopes to capitalize on drone technology to help stimulate greater development of renewable power generation.
New Wave Energy UK Ltd., based in North Yorkshire, England, announced its patent-pending technology in November 2013. It will combine unmanned flying vehicles with wireless transmission to create high-altitude power plants for solar, wind and other forms of renewable-energy generation.
While still in its infancy, aerial generation is not a new concept. Blimps and planes have already been tested and embraced for their potential as platforms for clean-energy generation.
By combining drones with the emerging technology of wireless transmission, New Wave hopes to capitalize on the full potential of aerial power generation and overcome some of its limitations. By being untethered, the company says that its drones “will allow for the optimum form of solar and wind tracking.” This will lead to “longer solar capture and a greater balance of energy output.”
While the company sees the technology as a potential source of utility-scale power, it first intends to demonstrate the potential by building small-scale power plants. They will be used to generate power for undeveloped and remote locations, for search and rescue efforts, and to aid emergency services during natural disasters.