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The applications of drones for both security and commercial purposes is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon. With rapid implementation of drone technology comes the need to improve its functionality, and optimizing the performance of lithium batteries has become an important goal.

As many as 96% of commercial UAVs are powered by electric batteries. Lithium ion battery technology makes this kind of electrified flight possible by providing a combination of sufficient power and energy output, with relatively light weight, and at a reasonable cost.

As UAVs become more sophisticated and require better performance and longer flight times, their batteries are becoming more specialized and improved.

Unlike stationary applications, when the batteries must be lifted into the air for flight, the additional weight of the battery becomes problematic.

As UAVs are growing in popularity and usefulness, battery systems are beginning to evolve to meet their specific requirements.

Essentially, the search for higher energy density (energy per unit mass) comes down to materials research. Deciding which battery materials are best suited for drone flight first requires a careful examination of the requirements for UAV missions.

In order to address these questions, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DoE) Argonne National Laboratory has established a new Mission-Driven Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Design Center. This center addresses the various interconnected challenges and tradeoffs of energy consumption, noise, flight time, and payload.

One of the most important customers for this research is the US military, whose use of UAVs has increased dramatically in recent years, as reported in

“When you work with end users like the military on advanced battery systems, they want solutions,” said Christopher Claxton, who oversees commercialization management of Argonne’s battery intellectual property portfolio.

“We have a demonstrated ability to work directly with people who have highly specific needs to create specialized materials that are matched to their exact mission requirements,” he added.

It is safe to say that as real world applications become more specialized, so will the batteries that serve them.