The company WiBotic, which manufactures wireless charging and fleet energy management solutions for technologies such as drones and industrial robots, has announced a major partnership to develop wireless charging solutions for robots on the Moon. WiBotic has won a $ 5.8 million contract with space robotics company Astrobotic, Bosch, and the University of Washington under NASA’s “Tipping Point” program.
“We are delighted to have been selected by Astrobotic and NASA to provide wireless charging capabilities to the next generation of lunar vehicles,” said Ben Waters, CEO and co-founder of WiBotic. “WiBotic specializes in wireless charging for military, industrial and commercial robots in all kinds of harsh environments here on Earth – for example large warehouses located in dusty deserts or close to highly corrosive salt water. This is our chance to bring our technology into space. We are excited to work closely with NASA and participate in the next chapter of space exploration. “
WiBotic is one of the companies at the forefront of industrial wireless charging, and is particularly interested in automation technologies such as robots and drones. Earlier this year, the company received approval to equip high-power transmitters and receivers, which deliver up to 300 watts of wireless power. It was the first time that the FCC had granted permission to use this kind of technology in mobile robots, drones and other devices with larger batteries.
Fast charging systems for lunar robots
In space, WiBotic will develop rapid charging systems for lunar robots, including the small CubeRover from Astrobotic. Another project partner, Bosch, will provide software expertise in wireless connectivity and AI, and the University of Washington will help with testing and validation.
Inductive charging could play a major role in the future of a multitude of different technologies. She is very attractive to space, where the sun has limits and mooring and re-docking for recharging is impractical as it adds complexity to missions and introduces the potential for devastating recharging errors. This technology works similarly to phone charging stations, but on a larger scale.
“You may remember that alternating electric current creates an electromagnetic field as it flows through a conductor. If a second conductor is placed next to the first, the electromagnetic field will induce an electric current in the second conductor as well, ”explains the CEO of Wibotic in an article published on the company’s website. “By winding the wire, and changing the number of spools between the primary wire and the secondary wire, the electrical energy of one voltage can be converted into another voltage. This is the principle behind electrical transformers – and the same concept behind inductive wireless charging. “
Space exploration vehicles have traditionally been powered by small nuclear reactors
The transmission range is a function of the size of the coils, which means it can be adapted to various applications, even in space.
Believe it or not, space exploration vehicles have traditionally been powered by technologies like small nuclear reactors, as well as solar panels. But robotics is always a compromise between power and weight, and for long-lasting power cables and large batteries have always been necessary, which limits autonomy. Cables are also a well-known weak point that do not hold up well against an inhospitable lunar surface.
The idea here is that WiBotic’s proximity charging solution would allow robots to charge wirelessly from a base station or inside moon landers spread across the surface of the Moon. This idea is very interesting for NASA as part of its Artemis program, which aims to explore more of the moon, before possible human settlements.
Keeping robots warm on freezing lunar nights
Some of the practical benefits of charging stations include keeping robots warm on freezing lunar nights and making it easier for astronauts to navigate the moon and manipulate their equipment by cutting the cord.
“Bringing wireless energy technology to the surface of the Moon and beyond is a game-changer in the way space robotics systems traditionally interact,” says Cedric Corpa de la Fuente, electrical engineer for planetary mobility at Astrobotic. “For example, by removing reliance on solar charging, a whole new set of possibilities for smaller, lighter systems becomes available for missions that were not within reach before – such as mission survival during the lunar night. Much like Astrobotic’s CubeRover, WiBotic’s wireless technology platform is scalable and supports a wide range of power needs. This makes the end product very attractive not only to businesses, but also to all new electrical systems and infrastructure in the space. “
In the long term, WiBotic plans to expand its charging station technology to create real power grids on the Moon.
“Set up a lunar wireless electricity network” on the Moon
“Our longer term vision is to build a wireless lunar power grid to deliver power to a wide range of vehicles, manned and unmanned, regardless of battery type, voltage or power level. required, ”says Ben Waters. “This is only the first step in creating a common infrastructure of wireless charging stations and fleet energy management software that will be deployed on the moon’s surface. “