New Industry Products

WiBotic Adds New Wireless Charging Lineup for Drones and Robots

August 18, 2021 by Antonio Anzaldua Jr.

WiBotic, a Seattle-based company, has developed a lineup of chargers and transmitters for drones and autonomous mobile robots.

Many drones need six or more hours to fully charge and can last less than half of that in the sky. This is what makes onboard charging a game-changer for expanding the abilities and battery lifespan of aerial, mobile, marine, space, and industrial robots. Recently, a new portfolio of devices has been launched by WiBotic that will establish efficient and robust wireless onboard charging for these robots.

WiBotic’s Charging System 

There are two methods that can be chosen for integrating OCs into a robot design, charging through a docking station or charging on the robot itself. When using the docking station scenario, common contact points are used to send power signals from the output of the OC at the docking station to the input side of the robot. A fleet communication module is used to monitor all activity back to the user. By placing the OC on a robot the user gets the benefit of wireless power that will extend the battery life.

All transmitters and OCs are inter-compatible, providing design flexibility for robot systems through robust universal charging. Image used courtesy of WiBotic. 

WiBotic’s charging system for utilizing the OC on the robot starts by drawing power off a common 120V receptacle. This AC power is then converted into wireless power. With the help of a transmitter, the OC is able to receive wireless power signals which are converted into a DC voltage to charge the robot. As the OC stores and supplies power to the robot, the entire system can be easily monitored by the browser-based control panel software. 

The design flexibility of this charging system is what separates WiBotic from other battery charging developers. Robot operators will have the ability to change parameters like voltage and current in real-time, extending battery life and maximizing robot uptime. 

How WiBotic Implements GaN Technology 

Each new product is equipped with WiBotic’s passively cooled onboard chargers, two transmitters that use gallium nitride (GaN) technology from GaN Systems. GaN Systems has spent years researching and developing GaN-based products designed for large data and energy-consuming power devices. They have an extensive portfolio of GaN power transistors that helps manufacturers like WiBotic create smaller, efficient, cost-effective power systems.

Ben Waters, CEO and Co-Founder of WiBotic, said high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) Gallium Nitride (GaN) FETs offer higher efficiency when compared to standard silicon high power MOSFETs for WiBotic's technologies. 

"Higher efficiency of course means energy savings for our customers, but for WiBotic it also means it’s easier to design circuits for thermal management. This allows us to pack more power into smaller spaces, which is important to customers in the robotics and UAV markets where minimal size and weight of components is critical," Waters said. "And of course the expertise of the staff at GaN Systems have been extremely helpful as we sought feedback on various early designs."

The TR-150 allows for a large fleet of diverse robots to charge from a single transmitter infrastructure. Image used courtesy of WiBotic

GaN Systems’ GaN power transistors were integrated into WiBotic’s compact transmitters. WiBotic’s new product line features two GaN-driven transmitters, the TR-150 and the TR-300. The TR-150 transmitter can deliver 150W of power with 85% power system efficiency and can be utilized with all other WiBotic OCs in diverse robot fleets. WiBotic’s TR-300 transmitter offers the same abilities but can reach a 300W power delivery. Both transmitters use GaN System technology within the unit’s power amplifier to boost signals.

Paul Wiener, the VP of Strategic Marketing at GaN Systems shared his excitement over the collaboration with WiBotic, “These new products are just as exciting for GaN Systems as they are for WiBotic. We continue to believe the market for high-power wireless charging systems is going to explode in the coming years and companies like WiBotic are going to lead the way through the use of GaN technology.”

Passively Cooled Onboard Chargers

As simple as fans have been used to cool down hardware to prevent heat up, but with smaller footprints needed for drones and mobile robots, fans will not be an option. WiBotic has passively cooled capabilities that don't have a fully sealed enclosure or waterproof connectors. The model’s base is aluminum which helps with heat dissipation. 

When the device experiences harsh environments that include water, dust, and dirt, the OC operates as a robust solution. In the new product line, WiBotic features two new OCs the OC-262 and OC-150, both offer programmable and monitorable options.

OCs are considered the heart of the WiBotic system, the OC-262 incorporates passive cooling to prevent overheating and unwanted debris. Image used courtesy of WiBotic.

WiBotic’s OC-262 onboard charger can power up to 300W and has a weatherproof receiver antenna to support robots in harsh operating conditions. Currently, there are two models available for purchase, the ST model for passive cooling instances and WP model for outdoor use. The OC-150 onboard charger is for smaller units and UAVs, it is compact and lightweight and delivers up to 150W of power. 

The OC-262 was originally developed for the Department of Defense. However, WiBotic said it is releasing the device in response to customer demand. No matter the use, passive cooling is useful in rugged environments. 

"A dead or poorly functioning battery or charger can literally be the difference between life and death.  So, we believe reliable charging systems are critical and that wireless charging (being impervious to environmental factors) is really the only long term choice," Waters said.

WiBotic's software solutions, Waters said, all report the health of the batteries, which allows users to adjust charge speed and voltage. 

"Most chargers don’t have that level of intelligence or programmability," Waters said. "It's all about delivering energy reliably and ensuring the batteries remain healthy."