Israeli start-up unveils ultra-fast charging batteries for drones
Image credit: StoreDot
An Israeli battery and materials company has said that its ultra-fast battery charging solution can be used to charge commercial drones in just five minutes.
The demonstration saw the launch of company StoreDot’s award-winning ultra-fast charging (UFC) technology that has achieved its mission of fully-charging a commercial drone in five minutes. According to the firm, this milestone overcomes two major barriers associated with slow charging times that has prevented the drone industry from making continuous, fully-autonomous drone operation a reality.
Firstly, it typically takes between 60 to 90 minutes to charge a commercial drone today, with full charge giving a flight time of just over 30 minutes. This results in the drones spending far longer in the charging station than in operation. To overcome this, users have to purchase additional batteries and swap them between flights. This process is not only costly but also requires a ‘human-in-the-loop’. This action negates drones fulfilling fully-autonomous operations.
Secondly, the need for a person to be involved in the charging process also limits drone users’ range of operation, as they are restricted to locating charging stations at sites that are easily accessible to humans. This means that drones currently have to spend much of their limited flight time travelling to and from the nearest charging point, greatly reducing their operational efficiency. It also restricts the use of drones in harsh or dangerous terrains – where sectors such as the military greatly benefit from their use.
To overcome all these challenges the drone industry is currently facing, StoreDot has developed FlashBattery technology that drastically reduces drone charging times with very little trade-off in terms of energy density, meaning that flight time is only slightly reduced.
“The launch of a UFC solution for drones changes the game,” said Dr Doron Mysersdorf, CEO of StoreDot. “By reducing battery charging time to just 5 minutes – which is up to 18 times faster than existing drone batteries – and eliminating the need for human intervention, drone operators have far greater freedom about where they can site charging stations. As a result, continuous, fully-autonomous drone operation is finally being made a reality.”
According to Mysersdorf, the active material used in many other batteries on the market today is graphite, but there are downsides to using this material for ultra-fast charging. “Graphite has high resistance and has problems when it comes to safety when you try to charge it fast,” he explained. “You get a process that is called metalisation that could cause a short fuse and increases the risks of fire or an explosion.”
To overcome this issue, the batteries developed for the ultra-fast charging solution incorporate breakthrough materials that have never been used before this, Mysersdorf said. “The innovation that is required in order to do that is across the board, starting from the materials themselves,” he explained. For this, the team at StoreDot developed metalloid nanotechnology alloys, which as properties similar to silicone which is known to have very high diffusion and low resistance when the lithium ions have been inserted in order to preserve the energy in the batteries.
The firm has also developed protective compounds for the battery. “This is our capabilities in organic synthesis, the capability to take a nanoparticle such as silicon and coat it, protect it with a 3D binder and protective polymer-style organic material that would give it the flexibility to absorb the ions, but also make sure there are no cracks or impurities in the structure as it inflates and deflates during charging and discharging,” Mysersdorf explained.
To develop the technology further, StoreDot has also got a strong team of data scientists who use artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to analyse and see which formulations perform best to accommodate to ultra-fast charging solutions.
Furthermore, StoreDot uses the battery as a system in order to innovate its formation, which refers to the process of performing the initial charge/discharge operation on the battery cell. “Here, we would get solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) that determines how much energy you can get out of the battery and what its cycle life would be like‚” Mysersdorf added. StoreDot also uses a unique formation profile called “dynamic voltage management”, which has shown that with metalloids, developers can extend the life of the battery dramatically.
In its demonstration, the team showed its Gen1 charging solution, which has a gravimetric energy density of 170Wh/kg and a volumetric energy density of 430Wh/l that helps it charge the drone within five minutes. Gen1 also runs from between 100 to 150 cycles depending on the operational mode of the drone. The charging solution consists of a charging port in which the cover slides open automatically to make way for the drone which will land autonomously into it. Once the cover is shut, it begins to charge the drone.
According to the team at StoreDot, its ultra-fast charging solution has the potential to “transform the drone industry” and can help overcome barriers in its mainstream adoptions. As well as having the capability to charge the drone in just five minutes (as shown in the demonstration video above), UFC also helps reduce the costs of owning a drone by eliminating the need to purchase additional batteries.
Furthermore, StoreDot said the solution removes the ‘human-in-the-loop’ and enables the drone to go through a continuous cycle of full-autonomous charging and operation. Full-autonomy, therefore, increases the flight time of the drone and enables drone operators to expand their operation scope.
“Drones will now be able to spend much more of their valuable flight time engaged in actual missions, greatly extending their range, rather than having to return to base to have their battery swapped out,” said Mysersdorf. “At the same time, UFC will also enable drone users to expand their operations into regions they could not previously access. Both of these factors will significantly increase operational efficiencies and profitability, making the business case for drone use much more attractive than ever before.”
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