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Mobile Robot Power Solutions: Drivers for Development
Technical inadequacies of power storage technology have limited the mobile robotics market. Dramatic increases in funding for power technology R&D and manufacturing will increase power options and capabilities. Portable robotics systems should benefit first.
By Steve McClure


Once cell phones became small enough to easily fit into a pocket, the market for them exploded. One key enabler was battery technology, which will also play a critical role in the growth of the mobile robotics market. The demand robotic systems place on batteries is far greater than that of cell phones, which require only that batteries be small and remain charged for long periods of time.

Compared with cell phones and other consumer electronic devices, robots and robotic technology are more complex, performing many energy-intensive tasks. Battery and fuel cell companies have struggled to deliver energy storage solutions that meet the power, capacity, and weight requirements for large classes of mobile robotics systems. The result: Power storage technology remains a major gating factor to the expansion of most segments of the mobile robotics market.

Not every robotic system presents the same challenges to battery development. For some market segments, battery technology will be less of a limiting factor than for others. Applications are the real drivers of power requirements.

Regardless of their individual power requirements, all segments of the mobile robotics market will benefit from recent political developments in the United States and other industrialized countries that resulted in a rapid increase in funding for battery and fuel cell research and development, along with financial support for expanding manufacturing capacity. The consequence of this influx in funding will be new technology, as well as increased availability of power solutions formerly limited by high cost to the military and other price-insensitive markets, thereby overcoming the limitations of current power storage technology and its stranglehold on the commercial mobile robotics industry…

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