WiBotic in Seattle has received equipment authorization from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US for its 300W high power wireless charging system.
This is the first system to receive FCC approval for use in mobile robots, drones, and other devices with larger batteries. “We are very excited about this, it has been long time coming in the technical development – these are challenging milestones to hit,” said Ben Waters, CEO of WiBotic.
“300W is a power level that for a mobile robot or drone that has a battery allows a relatively fast charging time. This comes down to the size of the battery but for small to mid sized roots it gives a charge time of a couple of hours. This where the rest of Wibotics comes into play as one of our biggest advantages is to allow the device to charge more frequently through the day but at shorter intervals. The 300W system allows companies to exploit these advantages,” he said.
The latest projects include autonomous robots with UV LED arrays for sterilising rooms during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have been commercialising several different products that solve the problem of mobile charging for industrial automation equipment in general,” he said. “These products are higher power products than the 100W systems and one of the unique thing si while there is wireless power transfer we also included a fully fledged programmable battery charger so any robotic company who is using the technology can charge different types of battery.
A variety of different elements are covered within the FCC approval, not just the radio transmitters and receivers but measuring the emissions when not operating as well as the human safety, heating, EMI and conducted emissions. While there are standards for smartphone wireless charging and higher power free space charging, Wibiotics had to work closely with a local test lab to develop the appropriate tests for 300W systems says Waters. The systems use gallium nitride (GaN) switches from GaN Systems and 400W DC-DC converter blocks from Vicor for the wireless charging operating at 6.78MHz.
“One of our core technical advantages on the battery charger and wireless power enables quite a bit of range tolerance so if a robot is repeatedly trying to dock at a position they need tolerance – a lot of systems have tight tolerance, so in general we have several centimetres of flexibility and anywhere in a zone gives maximum charging power. The FCC wants worse case test so we had to show combination of power and distance produced the worst emissions,” said Waters.
WiBotic is also working on higher power wireless charging by combining multiple 300W systems together. For example a charging bay could have 300W transmitters chargers on three sides and a robot drives in for charging from all three simultaneously for high speed wireless charging.
The technology is also appealing to developers of autonomous robots used for sterilisation of hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the last three or four months we’ve received a dozen enquires from OEMs or end users who purchase a mobile base who will put payloads on that base so a lot are repurposing those bases for UV arrays for sterilisation,” said Matt Carlson, VP business development.
“It’s definitely been a kickstart for us,” said Waters. “Those UV bulbs are power hungry and consume more power than the base so you have a battery problem – some pull power from the base and that reduces the run time of the base while others add another battery on top of the base that needs charging. Wireless charging is good for that,” he said. “There are some interesting power problems for those applications.”
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