MaxAmps‘ Matt Stojevich talks to UnmannedSystemsTechnology.com about high-quality energy-dense LiPo battery packs for unmanned heavy lift, hybrid and VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) applications.
Thinking specifically about the unmanned sector, could you tell us how you’ve seen the use of lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries and LiPo battery packs develop in recent years?
Lithium-Ion in general, not just LiPo batteries, are carving out their place for use in the unmanned sector. Lithium polymer is great because of its power density. Small lightweight batteries that can pack a big punch are ideal for V-TOL applications where there may be a significant draw on landing and taking-off but the majority of flight is low amp draw. Heavy lift applications as well as hybrid systems that run on battery and combustion motors tend to opt for LiPos as well due to the amp draw demands in use.
Lithium-Ion cylindrical cells (18650, 21700) have grown in use recently as well though. They are less expensive to produce at scale and manufacturing is growing domestically as well as internationally. These are a robust cell that are less likely to experience thermal runaway at the cost of capable discharge rate. More often than not we are seeing higher cell count batteries that use this cell type. Higher voltage tends to mean a lower amp draw, which in turn means more capacity or flight time.
All MaxAmps LiPo battery packs are hand-assembled and hand-checked during the manufacturing process, what are the advantages of this to your customers?
We focus on trying to create a seamless customer experience. What that means to us in this regard is making sure the customer has the very best product possible in any situation. It costs significantly more to assemble the batteries here in the US but it allows us to achieve that goal. In addition to this:
- We only use A grade cells, which are more expensive but worth it in both safety and performance (LiPo cells are graded from A to F from the factory).
- We hand build our packs here in Spokane, Washington and we are able to quality check every pack at least 3 times during the assembly process, making our quality control the best in the industry.
- We are able to confirm the quality of wire, plugs, solder, and even the tape we use.
- We use high-temperature Kapton tape to cover every connection in the pack which minimizes the risk of an internal short.
- We can accommodate space restrictions, weight restrictions, battery management systems, fuel gauges, and other smart battery features on the fly. Meaning customers don’t have to wait 6 weeks to test out the new design they are working on.
MaxAmps products have been selected by some influential customers in the unmanned field including Lockheed Martin, AeroVironment and NASA. Could you tell us about any real-world use cases where MaxAmps have provided custom-designed solutions for unmanned and autonomous applications?
It’s probably silly but one of my favorite relationships personally is with the various groups that build combat robots for the series BattleBots. These are unique creations that require a significant amount of initial designing as well as redesigning every year. New features, weapons, drive systems, and batteries! Usually, these projects are greenlit just months before filming so there is a sudden rush to design, CNC, order parts, and test systems in short order. We have gained the support of and have added teams every year since we first started providing power solutions. The power needs vary, the space available is limited, and each one is different. An all-around fun and exciting experience.
In regards to applications for companies like Lockheed and AeroVironment, being chosen as a partner on various projects like these is a badge of honor for everyone that works here at MaxAmps.
Given the rapid growth of the unmanned systems industry in recent years, how do you see MaxAmps evolving in this sector 2022 and beyond?
“Assembling the highest performing lithium batteries in the world.”
Above you will find our core focus. We want to be the power solution customers can count on. Not only in the quality of our product but in our ability to respond to demand, to adapt to changing needs, and providing consistent end results every step of the way. In 2022 we are adding a variety of custom 18650 li ion battery packs as well as 21700 li ion options and we are rolling out a brand-new website.