WiPo Wireless Power, a South African-based startup, is developing a wireless charger for drones to allow them to fly autonomously and continuously.
The wireless charger will also enable utilities to use drones for predictive maintenance rather than corrective maintenance.
WiPo Wireless Power was founded in early 2017, after winning a GAP (Gauteng Accelerator Programme) award, which was issued by The Innovation Hub in 2016.
The startup was initially set up to deal with the load shedding South Africa experienced in 2015.
“We noticed that much of the load shedding was not due to the lack of power generating capacity but rather the reliability of equipment. It was then that I started to consider how to change the way a power utility would do maintenance, specifically preventative maintenance of high voltage power lines,” Jaco Du Preez, founder of WiPo Wireless Power, told TalkIoT.“At the time, most power utilities around the world would use helicopters to do power line inspections, and only on a reactive basis. It was then that I spotted the opportunity for using drones to do the inspections rather than helicopters.”
“At the time, most power utilities around the world would use helicopters to do power line inspections, and only on a reactive basis. It was then that I spotted the opportunity for using drones to do the inspections rather than helicopters.”
Although drones have many advantages over helicopter for doing power line inspections, drones also come with their own limitations. One of which is limited flight time due to battery capacity.
WiPo Wireless Power then started to venture into developing a solution for this biggest problem for drones, which is their limited flight time due to inadequate battery power.
WiPo Wireless Power is now developing this smart IoT (Internet of Things Device) device, allowing an operator to track power usage, battery health and charging capacity.
The startup is only looking to tap into 0.5% of the global market at this stage with its smart IoT devices solution for drones.
It is difficult to determine how big is this market , but in a recent report from the Navigant Research indicated that global revenue will be $4.1 billion with an investment of $16.2 billion for the specific market of drones used for power line inspections.
There are several companies around the world looking at solving the same problem as WiPo Wireless Power, using similar technologies.
The South African startup is likely to compete with WiTricity in the US, Solarce in Canada and GET (Global Energy Corporation) in Russia, who are all looking at developing wireless power solutions.
The company eexpectsto complete the development of wireless chargers for drones in 2018.
“As the charger is seen as a power supply source for aviation equipment, we have to test, certify and comply with all relevant regulatory and legislator requirements. We expect to see a commercial ready device by the 4th quarter of 2018,” Du Preez told TalkIoT.
He added that the product is likely to be in the market by late 2018 or early 2019.
Then the startup will obtain relevant certification before engaging with suppliers to sell its product.
Du Preez said South Africa is but only a stepping stone to a wider and global market.
Asked about his plans for the future, Du Preez said: “To make the WiPo wireless Power technology available to the global market. Perhaps one day, in the not so distant future, we would like to see drones delivering medical supplies and emergency packages all made possible due to wireless power. “