Communication towers on mountain tops are one case where running a power line might be more expensive than our wireless option.
Flying aircraft are a prime example where running an extension cord is impractical (at best). Initially, we’re focusing on laser power for unmanned aircraft (UAVs). For some UAV applications (such as border patrol), you don’t want the aircraft to have to land – if it did, it would mean your “eyes in the sky” aren’t on watch.
You could power electric passenger airplanes too. Aircraft with more power can carry more, enabling them to handle more power-hungry payloads. Wireless power via laser also increases the range and capacity for electric aircraft.
Remote communications towers and remote sensors are another application. In this case, it can be expensive to run power lines to remote sites. Sometimes there are environmental regulations limiting where power lines can be run. Instead of cutting down trees to run a power line for a small tower on top of a mountain, imagine powering that tower wirelessly via laser!
Disaster relief is another exciting application for wireless power. Recent disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Japan highlight the importance of bringing electrical power into an affected zone as quickly as possible, and the difficulty in doing so safely. Rescuers located just outside the affected area can beam power to power receivers which have been air-dropped or hand-carried into the damaged area.
This power can then be used to bring communications back up, power emergency field hospitals, and more!
Looking out to the long-term, lasers can even be used to launch rockets that perform better than any chemical rocket! Leaving complicated and expensive machinery on the ground, and keeping the workings of the rocket as simple as practical, help improve the reliability of rockets while also reducing their operating cost.