One of the major disadvantages of drones is their limited flight time. This paper introduces a new concept and mechanism for an onboard system that physically replaces batteries during flight, analogous to “aerial refueling.” This capability allows drones to remain in mid-air indefinitely while pursuing their mission without forcing them to change flight paths for logistical needs. The concept is composed of an additional UAV array that delivers new batteries from various ground points. We first describe the Flying Hot-Swap Battery (FHSB) system's conceptual design. This unique design uses a FIFO logical process and the force of gravity to replace the energy source. The main innovation involves combining the ability to receive a battery from an external source, connect mechanically, hot-swap between the batteries, and dispose of the discharged battery. We report on the design of a dedicated battery cartridge for reception and connection in any spatial variation or orientation. Each component has a duplicate that works independently to increase system redundancy. Finally, we present the multiple experiments conducted to test the FHSB. The prototype successfully hovered and connected the battery in various reception orientations and hot-swapped the battery, thus maintaining the drone's continuous power supply. This proof of concept of a complete battery replacement process during flight took an average replacement time of 15.2 seconds, which is only a 0.81% energy loss, thus enabling the drone to continue flying indefinitely without needing to modify its flight path (see attached video).
- Power supplies