FAQ

General FAQs | Mobile FAQs | UAV FAQs | Software FAQs

General FAQs

Several forms of wireless power transfer exist today. The most common is inductive charging – as typically found in consumer devices such as cell phones and electric toothbrushes. Unfortunately, inductive systems are only efficient when the antennas are extremely close – but robots and UAV’s can’t position themselves accurately enough to ensure inductive systems will provide a reliable and efficient charge. Magnetic resonance is a newer technology that offers more flexibility in positioning. However, typical resonant systems have a “sweet spot” where efficiency is maximized. As long as the robot can navigate to that exact spot every time, maximum efficiency can be achieved. If the robot stops short or is off-center, however, efficiency is reduced, and charge times increase.

WiBotic uses elements of both electrical induction and magnetic resonance, but what sets apart is our ability to manage the connection between antennas in real time using an adaptive antenna tuning process. This provides a much wider range between antennas while maintaining full power and efficiency – regardless of how accurately the robot or AUV docks. WiBotic’s fleet management software solutions complement our hardware by providing users with data and analytics to ensure battery charging is fully optimized.

WiBotic’s standard transmitter antenna is 20cm in diameter and the receiver antenna is 10cm in diameter. With those antenna sizes, we allow for 5cm of face-to-face air gap between antennas and up to 5cm of side-to-side offset in any direction (10 total cm of side-to-side range). Unlike other wireless power systems, which typically only deliver full power at specific and limited distances, WiBotic technology delivers full power to the battery at any point within that range. Ranges can be increased by increasing the diameter of the antennas.

WiBotic’s high power systems have an end-to-end efficiency level between 75% and 85%. This represents the full system efficiency from power input to our transmitter circuit to Onboard Charger’s output to the battery. The actual wireless power antenna-to-antenna efficiency is typically 95% within the ranges mentioned above. Please note that it’s important to know if you’re comparing “antenna” or “full system” efficiency levels any time wireless power technologies are compared. Be sure you’re comparing apples to apples!

We support batteries from 8-58.4V, and current levels from 0-30A with our current product line. The battery chemistries we support are:

  • Lithium Ion (LiIon)
  • Lithium Polymer (LiPo)
  • Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4)
  • Lead Acid (LA, SLA)
  • Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH)
  • Nickel Cadmium (NiCad)

If you’re using a different battery type, contact us about adding support for it.

Absolutely! Only one robot can charge at a wireless charging station at a time, but entire fleets of diverse robots can all share the same charging station (or set of charging stations). This is possible because, unlike most contact-based chargers, the transmitter station is not sending a specific voltage and current level. Instead, it is sending wireless power at a designated frequency. Our Onboard Charger, installed on the robot, then converts that wireless energy into the specific voltage and current needed by that particular robot.

Most autonomous charging today is done using docking stations that require physical mating of electrical contacts. This requires precise navigation to the charging dock which is difficult to program and is not always reliable. Failing to properly align the contacts can mean a missed charging cycle and robot downtime. Contact based systems also wear out over time, or the contacts may become dirty or corroded – again resulting in inconsistent charging. Finally, there is no standard for contact based docking systems, making it nearly impossible for end uses with diverse fleets to have a single network of charging stations that can charge any robot.

Universal wireless charging systems overcome these issues. WiBotic systems offer several centimeters of alignment tolerance, precise navigation isn’t needed. Because the antennas can be fully sealed to the elements and don’t make physical contact with one another, wireless systems are also highly reliable and can handle an unlimited number of charge cycles. Finally, as robot use grows, companies may want to employ more than one type of robot for different use-cases. Rather than having an area dedicated to many different charging docks, a single wireless charging station can recharge any robot that is retrofitted with a WiBotic receiver.

We offer waterproof versions of some of our products, and we are working to create more in the future. Our current offerings are the Wibotic Edge Enclosure (IP53), and onboard charger OC-262 (IP67).

  • Wibotic Edge Enclosure: a transmitter andtransmitter tntenna combined into a single enclosure. This enclosure can work in place of the TR-110 or TR-301. The enclosure is rated to be IP53.
  • OC-262: Our waterproof onboard charger, rated to IP67. The OC-262 is the waterproof equivalent to the OC-251 (250w and 12A maximum), and comes with an IP67 rated antenna coil.

If what you need isn’t something we currently offer, talk to us! We’re engineers, innovators and problem solvers obsessed with customer satisfaction. We can likely come up with a solution.

The transmitter is powered via standard AC power from a wall outlet – with support for both 110V and 220V 50Hz/60Hz power systems. However, DC versions are available. Contact us for more information.

Our system can transfer power through plastic, most wood, and most other non-conductive materials. While our system can transfer through these materials, there is a range of material thickness where wireless power will be most optimal. Wireless power systems in general, however, cannot transfer power through metal or other conductive materials such as carbon fiber.

WiBotic antennas can be mounted just about anywhere if some basic rules are followed regarding nearby materials. For instance, antennas cannot be mounted directly against a sheet of metal. In that case, electromagnetic fields would be blocked and power transfer could be reduced or become unstable. Other large pieces of conductive materials near either antenna can have a similar effect, so it’s best to talk to us about where you’d like to place the antennas before you add them to your robot design. We also offer antennas with a normalizing backplane that takes the guesswork out of installation – especially for those who are looking to quickly evaluate the product before moving forward with a more sophisticated integration.

WiBotic’s systems utilize magnetic resonance for power transfer and operate at much higher frequencies than inductive systems. Indeed, this is a major benefit of WiBotic technology. Inductive systems, like induction cookers, can rapidly heat foreign objects that get near or between the antennas, and create a burn or fire risk. That won’t happen with WiBotic’s products.

Our products have also passed as certification testing for health and human safety required by the FCC and EU in order to carry the respective FCC and CE compliance marks.

Yes, after completing exhaustive testing under FCC guidelines, WiBotic has issued a “Suppliers Declaration of Conformity” authorizing use of the TR-301, OC-251 and OC-301 for commercial/industrial applications within the United States. Those products have also met all requirements for use in Canada and recently completed the CE mark certification for both EMC emissions and health and safety for use in the European Union and other countries that recognize the CE mark. Certification in other countries is currently underway.

WiBotic provides a Control Panel UI to allow users to set up the system for either manual or fully automatic charging. When shipped from the factory the hardware is set in manual mode. We ask users to connect to the transmitter using a PC over an Ethernet connection to confirm the battery settings before manually enabling the system for it’s first charge. After that, operators can set up the system to be 100% autonomous and operators do not need to be connected to the transmitter. In its most basic configuration, the transmitter will simply turn on and begin charging any robot with a WiBotic Onboard Charger as soon as the wireless power antennas are in range.

We don’t sell batteries, but our systems work with a variety of battery types and chemistries. We typically prefer to work with batteries that have built-in BMS systems for battery safety. We’d be happy to share the names of some of the battery manufacturers we recommend for different applications.

Orders for standard systems are typically shipped within 3-4 weeks of order confirmation.

We don’t offer a “try before you buy” program, but we do have a return policy that provides a refund, minus a small restocking fee, if the system does not perform as expected. Contact us for details.

WiBotic provides a one-year warranty on all charging system hardware.

Yes, it’s possible, we love to hear about new applications and potentially partnering discussions. Contact us and let’s chat!

Mobile FAQs

If you’ve purchased a system that has antennas with a built-in backplane, you can mount the antenna anywhere you’d like on the robot – so long as it can align with the transmitter antenna when docked. The backplane protects against metal or other conductive materials that may interfere with system performance. It is also possible to mount the antenna without the backplane, but care must be taken to avoid conductive materials. WiBotic has assisted with dozens of successful integrations so please contact us for tips before attempting an antenna installation without the backplane.

The same goes for the transmitter antenna. Our standard systems provide a transmitter antenna with backplane and our Edge outdoor units protect the antenna in a single enclosure that also contains the transmitter circuit. Again, it is possible to remove the antenna from it’s enclosure to integrate into your own docking station, but please contact WiBotic for pointers before making this move.

Onboard Charger circuits can be mounted anywhere inside or on the outside of the robot for indoor applications. For outdoor robots, the passively cooled OC-262 model with an IP67 rating provides protection against the elements if mounted on the outside of the robot. Both the transmitter and OC are connected to their antennas with a standard 2ft cable but other cable lengths up to 4ft can usually be accommodated.

While our standard off-the-shelf systems are readily available and easy to use “as is”, we recognize that some customization may be required for certain applications. In those cases we’re happy to work with you to integrate our systems into your robot and/or into a docking station of your own design.

Customers use our systems in all types of indoor and outdoor applications. In fact, wireless power is often the only viable autonomous power choice in areas that are dirty, dusty, wet, or corrosive. Contact-based systems will often become clogged or corroded in such conditions, leading to failed charge cycles. In contrast, we’ve engineered our Edge outdoor transmitter stations and IP67 rated Onboard Chargers and Antennas to withstand just about anything you ca throw at them!

Our system consists of four separate parts. The Transmitter, transmitter coil, receive coil, and Onboard Charger. The only component that current requires a fan for cooling is the transmitter. Some Onboard Chargers also have cooling fans but we also offer passively cooled (fanless) models for outdoor or extremely dusty environments.

While WiBotic components can be purchased individually, most customers start by purchasing a complete kit that includes the transmitter, Onboard Charger, both antennas, and all the cables needed to get started. We supply a battery cable with Anderson PowerPole connectors for the battery, so it may be necessary to adapt from PowerPole to the type of connector used with your battery. Or you may want to simply remove the PowerPoles and crimp your own connectors onto the battery cable we provide. Other than that, the kit includes everything you need to start charging!

UAV FAQs

Our lightest system includes the OC-110 Onboard Charger and our standard RC-100 receiver antenna. The OC-110 total weight with the plastic enclosure is 101g, and the RC-100 total weight with the enclosure is 27g. Total weight on the UAV side is 128g. However if the OC can be installed inside the UAV, then the enclosure may not be needed. In that case the weight of the OC can be as little as 50g.

Very easily. For most UAVs you simply need to find a surface to mount the onboard charger circuit. This could be on top of the UAV, under its belly, or even along one of the sides. Our enclosure can be strapped to the UAV for easy removal, or more permanently affixed with industrial double stick tape. The receiver antenna typically mounts on the UAV leg. Depending upon the style of legs on the UAV, some bracket design may be required, but WiBotic has a library of design files for mounting brackets that can be easily 3D printed.

Our onboard charges do not currenlty handle the cell balancing function. We recommend the use of “smart” batteries that contain an embedded BMS for balancing and over-discharge protection.

Because the needs are so different from UAV application to application (mining, agriculture, security, etc.) WiBotic has found that it is difficult to design a universal landing pad that works for every drone. It is also needlessly expensive to build and ship such large devices to our global customers from our headquarters in Seattle, WA . For those reasons, we do not currently sell a universal “PowerPad”.

As an alternative, we now provide a free Design Guide to help customers build a landing pad that fits their specific needs. The guide includes an overview document that explains how to install and position WiBotic components inside the pad, and what types of materials can be used to avoid interference with the wireless system. It includes CAD files and drawings of all WiBotic components and the original WiBotic PowerPad to use as a starting point for your own design. And it’s free! Just contact us to request a copy.

If you need a landing pad or hangar for a particular drone and application, though, we’re happy to develop a custom solution for you. We even have partners who can provide the UAV hardware, sensors, navigation, and precision landing technologies needed to assemble a complete solution. Contact us for more details.

Not necessarily, but there is an upper limit to the lateral antenna range of our system. As such, it is highly recommended that your UAV is equipped with precision landing technology that allows it to reliably land within 5cm of its designated target. You can also consider a post-landing centering mechanism for the landing pad or hangar to ensure charging will occur even if the drone doesn’t quite land accurately enough every time.

WiBotic systems are primarily used in applications where UAVs need to be charged and ready to fly from a centralized location on a moment’s notice – or perhaps several times per day on a pre-determined flight path. Examples include construction sites, agricultural operations, open pit mines, and oil refineries – essentially anywhere that a persistent eye in the sky is needed, but where human labor to continuously swap UAV batteries is expensive or simply not available.

Software FAQs

Our wireless power hardware includes the WiBotic Control Panel software and two separate APIs at no additional charge. A browser-based graphical user interface (GUI), the Control Panel lets users configure the system for almost any battery type, charge voltage and charge rate (amps). The Network API is a way to programmatically access and control the transmitter, while the Onboard API (a CAN-bus option) lets the robot controller access and control charging functions.

Dozens of parameters can be monitored and/or adjusted via both the Control Panel and our APIs, giving users more control over the charging process, and extending battery lifespan. For instance, users can choose to charge the battery quickly during the day when additional missions are imminent. However, the charge rate can be decreased overnight when there is more time to charge. The result is healthier batteries and lower battery costs over time.

To run the Control Panel, all you need is a modern web browser and a computer connected to the transmitter over an Ethernet connection. That initial connection only needs to be made once though – to confirm the battery settings and adjust charge parameters if needed. If you don’t want to regularly monitor and control the system after that, simply put the system into fully autonomous mode and unplug it from the network. The transmitters will still automatically charge any robot with a WiBotic onboard charger just a soon as it comes into range.

We also offer a new software product called Commander that allows users to map and then aggregate charging information from across an entire fleet of WiBotic transmitters and receivers. This allows robots to know when and where charging stations are available to help them maximize uptime. It also provides detailed reporting on the charging performance of batteries over time, helping identify battery issues and optimizing power delivery across the entire fleet. These features become particularly useful if the user implements opportunity charging schemes, where robots are charging many times per day for shorter periods of time, rather than leaving service for several hours at a time for charging.

You don’t need to be connected to the system via an Ethernet cable to view its status. Every WiBotic transmitter has a built in LCD display and LED indicators that shows system status, basic charging performance, and system alarms. In depth performance metrics and system configuration do require a network connection to the transmitter, however.