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WiBotic and Clearpath Robotics released wireless charging kits for two of Clearpath’s autonomous mobile robots: Jackal UGV and Husky UGV. The kits are available through Clearpath and can either be installed on new robots before they are shipped or retrofitted for existing robots using standard tools and simple instructions.
The kits are designed to provide a turnkey solution for wireless power, allowing Clearpath customers to experience fully autonomous battery charging for the first time. Once a Jackal or Husky robot navigates to within several centimeters of a charging station, power is automatically delivered through the air, providing reliable battery charging even in difficult outdoor environments.
Each kit contains a WiBotic charging station featuring a wireless transmitter, housed in a weatherproof enclosure, and WiBotic receiver components and mounting brackets specially designed by Clearpath for each specific robot model.
The kits offer operators the following benefits:
Operational cost savings: Jackal and Husky robots can now autonomously charge themselves, which is particularly beneficial for customers who use robots in remote environments or where it is expensive or hazardous to employ humans to monitor and charge batteries.
Reliability: In outdoor environments, robots are often exposed to dust, dirt, debris and moisture. Electrical components subjected to these elements are particularly susceptible to corrosion and mechanical failure, which results in unreliable charging. Fully sealed wireless power kits dramatically increase the reliability of autonomous robots in those environments.
Programmability: WiBotic chargers provide complete visibility into a robot’s charging process and can be programmed to deliver the ideal voltage and current for every charge cycle. It may be beneficial, for instance, to charge a particular robot’s battery as quickly as possible during working hours to minimize downtime. Overnight, however, it is typically better for the battery’s long-term health to charge more slowly. Jackal and Husky operators can use these customizable controls to optimize uptime while minimizing battery replacement costs.
Flexibility: Contact-based autonomous docking systems require precise alignment to ensure proper contact of both the positive and negative terminals. Misalignment can result in failed charging attempts, or damage to the dock itself – especially on uneven terrain or in wet, humid or muddy environments. The new kits solve this problem by offering up to 5cm of antenna air gap/misalignment while still delivering full power and efficiency.
Universality: Different robots use different battery chemistries, voltages and charging rates. This means customers who operate fleets of robots are frequently burdened with a hodgepodge of non-interoperable battery charging stations. The transmitters provided in these kits are universal, so a fleet of highly diverse robots can share the same charging stations as their Jackal and Husky counterparts.
Fleet management: Clearpath customers also have the option of using WiBotic Commander to manage networks of charging stations and larger fleets of robots. Commander aggregates historical information on every charge cycle for every robot and provides analytics for optimizing fleet-wide charging processes and battery performance.
Ben Waters, CEO and co-founder of WiBotic, was a guest on a recent episode of The Robot Report Podcast to discuss the benefits of wireless charging for autonomous mobile robots. WiBotic recently completed all of the testing and secured CE Mark approval for two of its wireless charging solutions. Waters shared some startup advice and the future of wireless charging in outer space. WiBotic is part of a NASA initiative to overcome challenges of charging robots on the moon. WiBotic will be developing wireless charging systems and energy monitoring base stations for lunar robots, including the CubeRover. You can listen to the interview below, starting at the 32:45 mark.