After successfully proving its wireless power technology can recharge drones, Solace Power is embarking on the second phase of a development project with aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
But Kris McNeil, CEO of the Mount Pearl, NL, company, was quick to point out in an interview last week that the Boeing contract is only one of the projects that Solace is working on. The company is applying its wireless power technology to automobiles and various military and industrial functions.
Without a doubt, Solace Power so far is best known for the project it conducted with Seattle-based Boeing with the support of the federal government’s Industrial and Technological Benefits program.
Boeing reps came to Mount Pearl, a city southwest of St. John’s, to work with Solace on developing the project, then they both attended a demonstration session in Florida with the U.S. military. During the demo, a quadcopter’s battery recharged even though the vehicle was nine to 12 inches from the power source. The results were featured in the Silicon Valley tech publication TechCrunch, which included a video of the test.
“The idea is that the unmanned drone can recharge its battery without a physical connection,” said McNeil. “It means the drone could in theory stay out in the field indefinitely.”
Solace Power was founded in 2007 with the goal of developing a technology to deliver electricity without power cords and batteries. While some in the field choose consumer applications such as recharging cell phones, Solace has focused mainly on industrial and automotive applications with a special emphasis on military uses.
The Solace system can be used to recharge a drone while it’s still in the air. McNeil said the advantage is that if there are windy conditions that could make a landing difficult, the drone would still be able to recharge and continue with its duties.
The technology can be used on mid-sized quadcopters, those weighing as much as five kilograms, which includes some used by the military.
“Solace's wireless power technology can bring real, tangible value to many of Boeing's products, and we look forward to working with them, and other industry-leading companies, to advance their business through technology innovations," Neil Chaulk, Solace’s Vice-President of Business Development, said in a statement.
Solace is less public about some of its other projects, but they’re no less interesting. It is working with a major North American car manufacturer, and with another customer that makes suits for bomb disposal personnel. These suits contain electronic devices, and there is a power cable to the helmet that limits mobility. Solace is working on a solution that would eliminate the cable.
Solace is moving forward on several fronts, and without providing details McNeil said the company this year is bringing in revenues for the first time. It now employs 15 people (all but one in Newfoundland), and will soon raise the staffing to more than 20.
The company, a graduate from the Genesis Centre at Memorial University, raised money from the First Angel Network in late 2012. Last year it raised more capital from existing investors, though McNeil declined to say how much. The company is considering another raise later this year.
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