Whether flying through the air, zipping along the ground, or sailing on the water, unmanned vehicles are part of a global market expected to reach $4 billion by 2020. Many of these vehicles are powered by batteries, and in order to improve system reliability and plan complicated missions, operators need to know the batteries’ state of charge and state of health.
Emerging Technology Ventures makes unmanned vehicles for land, air, and sea. Motion Picture Marine uses unmanned vehicles to create sequences for motion pictures like X-Men, Armageddon, and Star Trek. American Lithium Energy manufactures lithium-ion batteries that power unmanned vehicles, and Silent Falcon UAS Technologies is a developer of aerial unmanned vehicles. This group of small New Mexico businesses clustered in the unmanned vehicles industry decided to work together to develop a “smart battery manager.”
In 2016 Emerging Technology Ventures completed their second New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) project. NMSBA gave them access to Sandia National Laboratories engineers Derek Heeger, Dan Wesolowski, and Von Trullinger, and expertise which would otherwise be unavailable to them.
Assistance from Sandia helped them to advance the battery-monitoring electronics and algorithms that could be embedded within the battery’s hardware. These updates allow users to monitor battery condition and historical data supporting the safe and reliable operations of autonomous and unmanned systems.
In addition to using the smart battery manager technology to give their companies a competitive advantage, now this group is looking at whether it can be turned into a commercially available system others in the industry could integrate into their products. They are seeking investment based on their intellectual property. So far, the companies have received $2.5 million in new investments and added 12 new employees, including 3 engineers to focus on systems integration of the smart battery management system.