SolAero solar cells for NRL UAS

SolAero Technologies has delivered its lightweight solar cell technology to the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to power its Solar-Soaring UAV demonstrator, the company announced on 21 March.

SolAero’s UAV-TJ high efficiency solar cells convert solar radiation directly into electricity. As part of UAVs designed for long range flights, the cells will provide power for extended duration flight, to charge the vehicles’ batteries for overnight flight and to power onboard payloads.

The solar cells, which will generate approximately 40W of power for the multi-flight demonstration, have been integrated into flexible sheets that will be carried on the UAV’s wing tips.

Two additional solar sheets that will generate ~100W were also delivered for co-cured integration by NRL into the carbon fiber wings of other demonstrator vehicles.

How drones are helping design the solar power plants of the future

A cottage industry is growing around new technology for solar power developers to design, build and operate solar farms to help compete with fossil fuel power

Kingsley Chen, the drone fleet coordinator at SunPower, demonstrates the use of a drone to survey land for designing a solar power plant. Photograph: Robert Durrell for the Guardian

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Morphing drone takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane


Looking to ensure a good crop

Bobby Schulz/University of Minnesota

A shape-shifting drone takes off like a helicopter and transforms into a plane in mid-air to fly all day on solar power. The drone is designed to provide affordable aerial surveys for farmers, so they can see where to irrigate and use fertiliser and herbicide only where needed.

Most drones are not appropriate for this because they have short flight times. Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos and his team at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis have therefore taken a new approach.

The Solar Unmanned Air Vehicle: Quad (SUAV:Q) takes off vertically before unfolding with the help of lightweight powered hinges into a flat, winged aircraft. Its design makes it easier to launch than a fixed-wing drone, and means it can also hover during flight to get a stable view of the land below. It morphs back into the quadcopter formation to land vertically.

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