Engineers at the University of Southern Denmark have developed an innovative “vampire drone” capable of indefinite flight. This drone can fly for extended periods without landing by pausing to leech power from nearby power lines to recharge its onboard batteries.

The drone’s ability to recharge mid-flight is made possible by a sophisticated docking mechanism, multiple sensors, and an onboard AI system. These technologies enable the drone to recognize and attach to power lines whenever it needs to recharge. “The vampire drone can essentially live on the grid and operate completely autonomously for extended periods, without needing human supervision,” the team explained to Fast Company.

The idea of a drone leeching power from power lines dates back to 2017, when Emad Ebeid, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark, first proposed the concept. The primary objective of these drones is to inspect and maintain power lines, a task that is currently both costly and labor-intensive, requiring helicopters and ground personnel.

A drone that can recharge from the power lines it inspects could dramatically increase the efficiency of this maintenance work. Beyond power line inspection, there are numerous potential applications for these vampire drones, thanks to their ability to operate autonomously for long periods.

Testing the drone presented several challenges, as drones are not typically designed to interact physically with objects. The engineers had to ensure the drone could safely attach to and detach from power lines without causing damage or starting wildfires. To minimize collision risks, the team decided to approach the wires from below and equipped the drone with grippers to secure its attachment to the power line. Once the batteries are fully charged, the drone detaches and resumes its flight.

You can watch the vampire drone in action in the video above. The design represents a significant advancement in drone technology, standing in stark contrast to some of the more controversial AI attack drones being developed elsewhere. This vampire drone exemplifies the potential for drones to contribute positively to various fields through innovative and autonomous solutions.

By Impact Lab