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Moon rovers will get wireless charging systems

Seattle-based WiBotic says it’s working on a wireless charging system and energy management software for moon rovers, in partnership with Astrobotic, Bosch and the University of Washington.

The hardware and software for robotic lunar missions will build on the work that the UW spin-out has done on similar systems for applications here on Earth.

“We’ve conquered marine robotic systems, mobile terrestrial robots, aerial drones — and now, space,” WiBotic CEO and co-founder Ben Waters told GeekWire.

The team-up is supported by a $5.8 million NASA “Tipping Point” contract to overcome the power challenges that will face robots on the moon’s surface. One of the biggest challenges will be providing electric-powered rovers with enough juice to keep them active during the cold lunar night, which lasts two weeks.

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic is the prime contractor. It aims to use WiBotic’s charging system on lunar rovers that will include its own CubeRover, a shoebox-sized, four-wheeled robot that would venture forth from a base station to take on exploration tasks.

“Bringing wireless power technology to the surface of the moon and beyond is a game-changer in the way space robotics systems have traditionally interacted,” Cedric Corpa de la Fuente, electrical engineer for planetary mobility at Astrobotic, said today in a news release.

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Cosmic Tech

FCC boosts WiBotic’s wireless charging system

The Federal Communications Commission has given the go-ahead for Seattle-based WiBotic’s wireless charging system to provide up to 300 watts of over-the-air power to robots, drones and other battery-powered devices.

WiBotic says that’s a first for the industry.

“FCC approval is not only an accomplishment for our team, but also for our customers and the industry,” WiBotic CEO Ben Waters said today in a news release.

“Previously, only low-power cellphone and small electronics chargers or very high-power electric vehicle chargers were approved for widespread use,” Waters said. “WiBotic is now providing a solution that lets the entire automation industry take advantage of the wireless power revolution.”

The FCC’s authorization, issued last month, should boost confidence among WiBotic’s customers that the company’s system meets regulatory requirements. “This will let them deploy larger fleets faster than would otherwise be possible,” the company’s vice president for business development, told Unite.ai’s Antoine Tardif in an interview.

WiBotic’s system lets drones charge themselves up automatically when they touch down on a charging pad. Robots can pull up to a charging station and pull in power via antennas. WiBotic is also working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute on a wireless power system for underwater sensors.

The company’s power management software can work with the hardware to optimize battery use for entire fleets of electric-powered machines, without a human ever having to handle a plug. In a June interview, Waters said the hands-off approach is a particularly strong selling point as companies that rely on automation struggle to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

WiBotic, which was spun out from the University of Washington in 2015, reported raising $5.7 million in a Series A funding round in June, bringing total investment to nearly $9 million. Investors in that round included Junson Capital, SV Tech Ventures, Rolling Bay Ventures, Aves Capital, The W Fund and WRF.

The company is working with an array of customers that include Waypoint RoboticsClearpath Robotics and Aero Corp.

This report was published on Cosmic Log. Accept no substitutes.

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Apple reportedly working on secret satellite project

Image: Satellite web
An artist’s conception shows a constellation of satellites in orbit. (Credit: OneWeb)

Apple has joined SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon and other companies in targeting the market for satellite internet services, Bloomberg News reported today.

Bloomberg quoted unidentified people familiar with the work as saying that the California-based company has a secret team working on technologies that it could use to beam internet services directly to devices, bypassing wireless networks. The effort is reportedly still in its early stages and may not necessarily come to fruition.

Apple did not immediately respond to GeekWire’s inquiries about the report.

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Amazon wants to test mobile broadband devices

Motorola CBRS application
Motorola is already experimenting with CBRS technology, which could be applied to broadband workplace communications. Now Amazon wants to test CBRS systems as well. (Motorola Photo)

Amazon is seeking the Federal Communications Commission’s approval for a six-month test of mobile radio devices and networking software – but not at its Seattle home base.

The experiment with Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS, would take place in Sunnyvale, Calif. That’s the Silicon Valley city where Amazon’s Lab126 product development subsidiary is headquartered. Lab126 played a key role in creating devices such as Amazon’s Kindle ebook readers and Kindle Fire tablets (as well as the not-so-successful Kindle Fire phones).

CBRS uses a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum that was originally set aside for U.S. government communications. Four years ago, the FCC began a process to open up the spectrum – ranging from 3550 to 3700 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band – for sharing with commercial users for wireless broadband applications.

The CBRS band is expected to be easier to use than other parts of the spectrum. It could enable local data transmission at speeds that are better than Wi-Fi, and should play well with 5G.

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WiBotic unveils wireless power system for drones

WiBotic power system
WiBotic’s new wireless power system is optimized for use on the DJI Matrice 200 and 210 drones. (WiBotic Photo)

Seattle-based WiBotic is unveiling a wireless power system designed for DJI’s commercial-grade drones, a product that opens the way for seamless recharging as applications for long-lasting drones take off.

The power system works with the high-end DJI Matrice 200 and Matrice 210 drones, and is compatible with WiBotic’s PowerPad for companies seeking an end-to-end turnkey solution for drone recharging. Installation can take as little as 10 minutes, the company says.

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Pivotal Commware demonstrates 5G wireless link

Echo 5G unit
Pivotal Commware’s glass-attached Echo 5G unit picks up a millimeter-wave signal and boosts the signal for wireless customers. (Pivotal Commware Photo)

Pivotal Commware, the Kirkland, Wash.-based startup backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, says it’s demonstrated its solution to a wireless annoyance: getting 5G reception inside a building.

Millimeter-wave 5G signaling is the next wave in cellular technology, revving up data transfer speeds by an order of magnitude over 4G. The new wireless standard also promises to bring less lag time and wider bandwidth.

But deploying 5G also brings technical challenges: Because of the physics of high-frequency radio waves, the signal typically needs a boost on the subscriber side to provide connectivity inside the home.

Pivotal Commware’s strategy is to use a metamaterials-based technology called holographic beam forming to intercept and amplify the signal. Its Echo 5G repeater is designed to be attached to a window, without the need for external wiring or drilling through walls.

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