Most drones can only fly for around 30 minutes until the battery needs to be recharged, something which takes one to two hours on average. This massively limits the practicality of drone use. Now, the Israel-based StoreDot is promising a new type of technology that enables a full drone battery recharge to take place in just five minutes.
The technology is known as the UFC FlashBattery, as ‘UFC’ stands for ‘ultra-fast charging’). The power source works in partnership with its UFC base station to recharge around 18 times faster than traditional drone batteries. From this five-minute charge comes up to 31 minutes of flight time.
The battery itself incorporates chemically-synthesised, bio-organic peptide molecules called nanodots. These, in part, form a multi-function electrode that allows supercapacitor-style fast charging with a slow discharge.
Thanks to the small size of nanodots, the resultant electrode capacitance and electrolyte performance is dramatically improved, facilitating batteries that can be fully charged in a fraction of the time of regular lithium-ion batteries.
A drone equipped with StoreDot’s ultra-fast charging FlashBattery lifts off from its charging station. Image Credit: StoreDot.
According to StoreDot’s CEO, Dr Doron Myersdorf, the battery could, in theory, recharge in one minute. However, this would reduce the number of charge cycles to around 30 down from 100 to 150. The battery also trades off some energy density: respective of gravimetric and volumetric energy density, the power source currently stands at 170 watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg) and 430 watt-hours per litre (Wh/l), which is a little lower when compared to the standard industry ranges of 150 to 250Wh/kg and 300 to 700Wh/l.
Nevertheless, the above trade-off is well worth it when you consider the said fact that a typical battery-powered drone takes one to two hours to be fully charged for 30 minutes of flight time. This is something that’s hindering the growth of the commercial drone market, especially as it is compounded by the cost of extra batteries for the user (as and when drone batteries need to be switched and swapped between charge cycles).
As Myersdorf puts it: “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.
“At the same time, UFC [ultra-fast charging] will also enable drone users to expand their operations into regions they could not previously access.”
Further Benefits of StoreDot’s Ultra-fast Charging Drone
On top of the above, the chemical compound used in the battery isn’t flammable and has a much higher combustion temperature than graphite. This reduces the battery’s resistance, making it much safer and less likely to overheat. What’s more, the bio-organic raw materials used in the battery are naturally abundant, eco-friendly, and inexpensive, claims StoreDot. And if cracks do occur, StoreDot claims that self-healing binders will heal these cracks during charge cycles.
Although the battery is yet to be released, StoreDot estimates that drones will be equipped with two battery packs, each with 32 cells and a pack capacity of 6.8 ampere hours, a current charge of 135A, and a pack voltage of 19V to 34.4V.