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Revolutionary new drone feeds on electricity from power lines and flies forever

Published May 8th, 2024 5:12PM EDT
Image: Andy Dean/Adobe

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Engineers working at the University of Southern Denmark have created a vampire drone capable of living forever. The drone is able to fly for extended periods of time without landing, as it can take breaks and leech power from nearby power lines to recharge its onboard batteries.

The maneuver is made possible thanks to a docking mechanism, several sensors, and an AI system loaded on board. This allows the drone to recognize power lines and then attach to them each time it needs to recharge its batteries.

The team told Fast Company that the vampire drone can “essentially live on the grid and operate completely autonomously for extended periods of time,” all without needing a human to babysit it. Apparently, the concept of leeching power from power lines has been explored in one capacity or another since 2017, when Emad Ebeid, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark, first proposed the idea.

The main goal of drones like this seems to revolve around being able to fly for extended periods of time, checking the integrity of power lines. This process is currently a very expensive maintenance effort, as it requires both helicopters and found personnel.

However, a drone that can literally leech power from the power lines and run for extended periods of time could indeed make that job much more efficient. I’m sure there are also plenty of other ways that we could come up with to put these vampire drones to use.

Testing the drone was a process in and of itself, though. Drones aren’t typically designed to interact with anything physically, which meant the engineers had to have folks on hand to help deal with anything that went wrong, especially since interacting with a power line has the potential to cause major damage or even wildfires.

That’s why the team eventually settled on approaching the wire from the bottom, as it lowered the risk of collision. Then, the engineers fixed grippers to the drone, allowing it to attach itself to the power line and then securely attach itself to the wire. From there, the drone can recharge its batteries, and then unclamp itself once the batteries are fully charged.

You can see the vampire drone in action in the video above. It’s actually a cool design, and a far cry from the concerning AI attack drones we’ve seen other engineers putting together.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.