An electrical engineering professor and his team from the University of Texas are working to develop a safer drone battery for mining operations. The team is designing a new battery that doesn’t spark, which can be dangerous when it comes to underground mines with dangerous gases.
New Mexico Tech is leading the project, with funding from the Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health. David Wetz and his team have access to $178,000 to research and develop a safer solution.
Batteries, motors, and other electronic parts can spark, so everything has to be safely enclosed so that no sparks can escape. Building a rugged enclosure adds weight to the drone, so there is a balance in how to safely contain any potential problems and ensure that the battery doesn’t become excessively large to maintain the flight time of the drone.
Wetz has worked heavily on energy storage and finding out the reasons for batteries to fail. This expertise will come in handy as he works on a new battery design as well as creating a cage to store the battery and other electronics in to keep it away from the dangerous gases and any other flammable materials. Once the design is completed, it will be tested and checked to ensure it meets the requirements set by the U.S. Mining Safety Hazard Authority.
Diana Huffaker, chair of UTA’s Electrical Engineering Department, shared:
I’m enthusiastic about our contributions to the vigorous growth of alternative energy sources and unmanned vehicle systems. The fact that Dr. Wetz is merging the two to make a spark-less electrical system that will allow drones to inspect mines is unique and exciting.
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Photo: Mirage News
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