New Wave Energy, an English company, has plans to build a high altitude aerial power plant, consisting of networks of unmanned drones that can harvest solar and wind energy and transmit it wirelessly to receiving stations on the ground.

As sunlight radiates down to the Earth’s surface some of its energy is absorbed into the atmosphere or is reflected from the clouds. The energy received by the Earth’s surface is less than 50% of the amount received in space.  At 70,000 feet, the planned height of the drone networks, there is more than 70% of the incoming solar energy.

New Wave Energy’s drones would each be 20 x 20 metres with multiple wind turbines and a flat base for generating solar power. The drones would be able to power themselces with the harvested energy and would generate an additional 50 kilowatts that would be transmitted wirelessly to the ground.

Advances in drone design and technology are making the idea feasible. For example, Titan Aerospace‘s Solara drone can stay airborne for up to 5 years and Nimbus Lab‘s quadrotor drone can transmit power wirelessly.