MAKING energy as accessible as the internet is what the team at deep tech start-up Aquila Earth aims to do.

Latrobe Regional Airport was among the first places to see this emerging technology as the innovative tech company trialled a ‘fly forever drone’ on site last week.

The drone trial aims to prove Aquila’s ground-breaking technology using wireless energy charging to keep a drone flying at various distances in the air.

Light: The Aquila ‘fly forever’ drone trials were a huge success. Photograph: Aquila Earth

The technology combines light beams and special solar cells to charge drones safely while airborne.

Co-founder and Chief Executive of Aquila, Billy Jeremijenko, said previous attempts of similar technology had succeeded at three metres from the ground.

“We’re developing long-range wireless energy delivery systems to initially charge drones as they fly so they can fly forever,” Mr Jeremijenko said.

“Traditionally, drones are limited by range and battery life.”

Latrobe City Council attended an Advanced Air Mobility summit late last year, where members of the council team met the brains behind Aquila. Mr Jeremijenko has since approached council’s Airport Operations Manager about the potential to conduct their trials at the council precinct.

“Latrobe (City Council) has been incredibly supportive of advanced aerospace technology such as what we’re developing,” Mr Jeremijenko said.

Council has identified Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) in its Transition Plan as a new field that can assist the region transition toward innovative industries.

Council aims to adopt new and emerging industries that will future proof the economy as the Valley moves away from traditional outputs.

Council also hopes to make the precinct into a ‘launchpad’ to assist start-ups like Aquila to develop their technology.

“These types of businesses help our transition to new industry and clean energy,” a council spokesperson said.

The goal for Aquila is to build a clean energy network of light with ‘no wires and no limits’.

“We’ve got a new form of long-range wireless energy delivery system using light beams and special types of solar panels, and we need to prove that it works, it’s safe and effective – being able to do that in a controlled environment such as this large aircraft hangar, it’s incredibly useful,” Mr Jeremijenko said.

Aquila might have unlocked the future to clean and accessible energy infrastructure, using a beam of light and special solar panels, transmitters and sensors.

By the end of the week the trial was a huge success as the team at Aquila charged the drone wirelessly at a distance of 50 metres from the ground, smashing previous attempts of similar technology.

Creating energy accessible like the internet was not as far-fetched as you may think, Mr Jeremijenko told the Latrobe Valley Express.

“Effectively, it’s directing a beam of light towards a particular type of solar panel. So the beam of light we can focus it using optics and direct it over very large distances – up to one kilometre,” he said.

The team at Aquila projects that light beams onto a particular type of solar panel.

“That special type of solar panel can convert at a very high intensity and very high efficiency, so you’re talking like maybe 200 or 300 times more intense than the sun and up to 30 per cent up in efficiency right now, but maybe future generations maybe 50 per cent more and then it uses that light energy so that the drone can fly forever,” Mr Jeremijenko explained.

With their eyes set on implementing their technology soon, Mr Jeremijenko said Aquila’s wireless energy would be ideal for asset management, search and rescue, coastal surveillance, transport and more.

“Having a drone that’s like an eye in the sky that can fly continuously and zone in on problems, see what’s happening can increase the pace in which you can run these sites and optimise the operation, that’s where we are focusing first,” he said.

Aquila’s transformational approach to energy could be applied anywhere. Mr Jeremijenko said the technology could very well be the future of energy, but right now, the company was taking things step by step.

“The near-term path is essentially wireless charging networks across regional Australia to transport goods and supplies over very large distances very directly and very quickly,” Mr Jeremijenko said.

“Over time, I think this technology will become almost like an internet for energy where energy begins to feel like mobile data, and it is always accessible, and you don’t have to think about it.”

Smoke and mirrors: Latrobe Regional Airport hosted exciting new technology trials. Photograph: Aquila Earth

Latrobe City Council is eager to turn the region into an innovation hub.

“New technology trials, such as the one currently being conducted by Aquila Earth, are just one way that council is steering Latrobe City towards new energy industries,” a council spokesperson said.

With the Advanced Air Mobility Industry’s focus to help achieve net zero emissions by industry, the Latrobe Aerospace Technology Precinct will aim to assist the research and development companies to develop and test these new technologies.

One of council’s key objectives is to provide opportunities for young people to access careers in industries of the future.

Another objective of the council is to attract advanced manufacturing to create jobs. Council hopes that the outcome of the AAM research will result in more manufacturing businesses in the region.

Council wishes to promote the services that are offered by the highly-skilled businesses in the area, to work with the businesses that use facilities in the precinct.

“For example, the ability to access CNC cutting services, detailed electrical requirements or fabrication services is an attractor for any incoming businesses,” a council spokesperson said.

“In addition, a key focus area for AAM is drone technology for freight. There are several companies looking to use our facilities that are developing freight drones that can carry payloads up to 250kgs over several hundred kilometres.”