Charging your drone battery – in five minutes
They did it with cell phones and electronic vehicles.
Now Israeli fast charging battery technology pioneer StoreDot has made a drone battery that will charge in five minutes.
On Wednesday, the company launched its ultrafast charging (UFC) technology for the drone industry, having succeeded in the test run of fully-charging a commercial drone in five minutes.
StoreDot figures this latest milestone in drone technology overcomes two major barriers associated with slow charging times that has prevented the drone industry from realising its full potential and finally makes continuous, fully-autonomous drone operation a reality.
The company achieved this by re-making battery rules and designing a new generation lithium battery that redefines battery technology. What they are changing is the chemistry of the charger
“In a typical lithium battery, you have an anode and a cathode; and the electrolyte is actually lithium salt or lithium ions that move from the anode to the cathode,” Says Doron Myersdorf, StoreDot co-founder and CEO. “When you charge, there is a potential difference that you pulled from the outlet, which enables all ions to be moved into the anode and be charged. In a normal battery, the process has to be slow, otherwise there will be plating or metalisation, or dendrites. These are little nails that will coalesce and eventually puncture a hole in the separator and create a short circuit.”
But at StoreDot they do not make normal batteries; they are avoiding this handicap with new materials that do not allow a reaction between the lithium and the graphite found in other everyday batteries.
According to Liron Hillel, Project Lead at the company; “Generally what we do is prepare a slurry, which is the wet part of the process where we mix all the materials together – the active materials, the binder, the conductive additives – all these ingredients are mixed and stirred into a soup.”
Then comes the secret sauce; they coat the slurry onto a foil which transforms the current. Every battery maker does this – but they coat at 300 microns. StroreDot coats at 10, as this enables a low resistance of the material, allowing the electrodes to be charged in parallel.
After coating, the slurry is dried in an oven before electrodes roughly the size of credit cards are cut from the foil.
“To make the battery, we stack anode over cathode and repeat the process until we achieve the desired amount of energy for the cell,” says Hillel, adding that their batteries also come with a cooling system that prevents them from overheating while charging.
Today, it typically takes between 60 to 90 minutes to charge a commercial drone, with full charge giving a flight time of just over 30 minutes. As a result, drones spend far longer in the charging station that in operation – an unacceptable level of downtime for any application. To overcome this problem, additional batteries must be purchased and swapped out between flights. This process is not only costly, but also requires a ‘man-in-the-loop’ to replace the batteries, which ultimately negates one of the main benefits of drone use – autonomous operation.
“The launch of a UFC solution for drones changes the game” Myersdorf says. “By reducing battery charging time to just five minutes – which is up to eighteen times faster than existing drone batteries – and eliminating the need for human intervention, drone operators have far greater freedom about where they can site charging stations. As a result, continuous, fully-autonomous drone operation is finally being made a reality.
“Drones will now be able to spend much 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. At the same time, UFC will also enable drone users to expand their operations into regions they could not previously access. Both of these factors will significantly increase operational efficiencies and profitability, making the business case for drone use much more attractive than ever before,” he adds.
“In applications where cutting response times is critical, and where organisations must also demonstrate a commitment to reducing their carbon footprint, the use of drones can play a crucial role in helping to establish a competitive advantage. For these types of companies, UFC technology can hugely improve and extend their existing operations and make them much more profitable. We believe this technology can also open the door for new players to enter this space and extend their service offering, making drones a more attractive proposition as a new revenue stream.”
Based in Herzliya, Israel, StoreDot is a lithium-ion battery technology company which develops batteries that charge significantly faster than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Among their partners are BP, Daimler, TDK and EVE Energy – with whom they collaborated to make the fast charging battery for electronic vehicles.