Could new lithium battery double drone flight time?

A promising new battery technology might be what the drone industry has been looking for … longer drone flight times. For commercial applications like home package delivery, battery capacity (flight time) is a key component to the success of the service. Companies like Amazon, WalMart, and 7-Eleven are testing drone delivery and extending the flight time would make delivery possible to residences farther from the launch location (e.g. warehouse).

An MIT spinout, the company SolidEnergy Systems is preparing to commercialize a novel rechargable lithium metal battery that offers double the energy capacity of the lithium ion batteries that power many of today’s consumer electronics.  There are still hurtles to overcome that might derail production, but the technology does look interesting.  Watch the above video learn more about SolidEnergy Systems.

The company plans to bring the batteries to smartphones and wearables in early 2017, and to electric cars in 2018. But the first application will be drones, coming this November 2016. “Several customers are using drones and balloons to provide free Internet to the developing world, and to survey for disaster relief,” according to founder Qichao Hu. “It’s a very exciting and noble application.”

SolidEnergy Systems was founded in 2012 by MIT alumnus Qichao Hu.  It has developed an “anode-free” lithium metal battery with several material advances that make it twice as energy-dense, yet just as safe and long-lasting as the lithium ion batteries used in smartphones, electric cars, wearables, drones, and other devices.  Twice the energy density would mean that a battery could be made that lasts the same amount of time but be half the size of a lithium ion battery.  Or a battery the same size as a lithium ion battery could last twice as long.

Below is the battery SolidEnergy Systems‘ battery (far right) is twice as energy-dense, yet just as safe and long-lasting as the lithium ion batteries used in consumer electronics. The battery uses a lithium metal foil for an anode, which can hold more ions and is several times thinner and lighter than traditional lithium metal, graphite, carbon, or silicon anodes. A novel electrolyte also keeps the battery from heating up and catching fire.

Drone Battery - Solid Energy Systems
Image: SolidEnergy Systems

BBC visits SolidEnergy to find out more about the exciting battery technology

Source: MIT News