Alta Devices, a developer of lightweight, flexible solar power solutions for UAVs, has introduced a new “Solar for UAV Index” which is designed to assess solar technologies for fixed wing UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) applications. This new index has been developed to assist designers of unmanned systems with choosing the right solar technology for their platforms and accounts for many of the issues that should be considered.
Included in the new measurement system are power to weight; properties of the solar cell plus encapsulate; and power to surface area. This new index is needed because the traditional measurement for solar technologies based on conversion efficiency alone is insufficient for applications where weight and flexibility are equally critical.
Small UAVs and high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs, sometimes referred to as HALE or pseudo-satellites, are increasingly important for many applications ranging from agriculture, surveillance, inspection, communications, and many other civil uses. These all require flight times that can approach days, months, or be unlimited. In order to accomplish these long flight times, batteries installed as the primary power source must be able to be extended and recharged. But this extension needs to come without impairing the aerodynamics. Solar technology is perfect for this, if it meets the required integration, power to weight ratios, conversion efficiency, and energy yield needs. To date, the only standardized metric for solar power has focused on conversion efficiency. Alta Devices’ new proposed index creates a rating system based on a more representative complement of variables that must be considered in choosing a solar technology for these types of applications.
Rob Parenti, Technical Marketing Engineer at Alta Devices spoke about the new index at the Commercial UAV Show, held in London last week. A full whitepaper is available to download at http://www.altadevices.com/applications/unmanned-systems/.