Startup raises $30 million for wireless power delivery system
Not the first company in the game to chase cable-free charging dragon
A wireless power startup has secured $30 million in funding to help develop its technology, with which it aims to "do for power what Wi-Fi has done for data."
Reach Power claims its system is capable of wirelessly delivering hundreds of watts of energy over distances of tens of meters using radio waves, claiming it can power or recharge many end devices at the same time.
The company said its Series B financing round, led by venture capital firm DCVC along with participation from Y Combinator, Transform VC, and Collaborative Fund, will help it fund solutions for a number of power-related challenges that it sees.
These challenges are said to include eliminating the downtime involved in charging up autonomous vehicles and drones; enabling the deployment of temporary microgrids for emergency situations or for military field operations; as well as potentially being used to power miniature IoT devices.
"Reach's mission is to do for power what Wi-Fi has done for data," founder and CEO Chris Davlantes said in a statement accompanying the funding announcement.
He claimed the company's technology can provide industrial-scale wireless power networks that will be able to augment fixed electrical wiring with a more flexible layer that offers greater mobility and functionality to devices.
"This new investment will enable us to deliver our high-performance wireless power solutions to provide versatile and intelligent power distribution worldwide," Davlantes said.
Reach claims that its technology is safe, highly scalable, and easy to use. However, any company that has to inform you that its product is safe always makes us slightly wary.
The company also reckons that it is built using state-of-the-art, patented technology, including high-efficiency power-beaming circuits, optimization algorithms, and "adaptive electromagnetic surfaces."
An animation on Reach's website illustrates how it envisions the system would work, using a loading bay as an example working environment. In the illustration, this environment has a wall-mounted Reach unit that the company describes as a "Router", which automatically detects equipment enabled for wireless power and which devices are authorized, implying that some communication is used to configure power delivery.
The Router determines the optimal pathway to deliver energy to each device and is able to track changes in position and adjust pathways accordingly, delivering power until "all authorized devices are fully charged," the company says.
According to the company's online FAQ, the Reach system operates within the 5.8GHz part of the spectrum, which Reach claims is "the unoccupied edge of the unlicensed Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) spectrum."
Reach claims that its system is capable of delivering up to 50W to devices at distances of about 30 feet (9.1 meters), although the power delivered will depend on the size of the Reach router, the size of the target device, and the distance between them.
However, the company said it has also demonstrated both more distance and more power in certain instances, with its announcement specifically claiming that its defense-related systems would deliver even higher power over even greater distances.
According to Reuters, Reach has already signed a contract with the US Department of Defense for prototypes that can combine multiple energy-beaming modules for stronger power transmission or longer ranges.
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However, Reach isn't the only company chasing government funding for cable-free charging. Earlier this year, we reported how the Defense research agency DARPA was seeking technology that could allow airborne tanker aircraft to deliver 100kW of power using laser beams to recharge drones in flight.
Meanwhile, a system developed by researchers in Japan last year – but still at the proof-of-concept stage – can turn a room into a wireless power transfer system that uses multidirectional, distributed currents on conductive surfaces built into the walls to deliver energy. ®