Initial Testing Performed with Autonomous Solar-Powered UAS

By Mike Ball / 19 Apr 2021

Skydweller solar UAS

Skydweller Aero has performed a successful flight demonstration of the initial aircraft control, actuation, and sensor technology systems of the company’s autonomous solar-powered UAS (unmanned aerial system). The demonstration included testing of proprietary autonomous software, while measuring and evaluating multiple open-loop system identification inputs to collect data on the UAV’s static and dynamic characteristics at various altitudes.

The flight demonstration is a crucial step in the company’s preliminary flight test campaign, which will transition to fully autonomous flight testing and conclude with an optionally piloted take-off and landing.

In preparation for this significant testing stage, Skydweller Aero designed key software and hardware components to enhance the aircraft’s efficiency, integration, and connectivity. These additions proved the efficacy of essential hardware required the eventual unmanned variant of the platform, and also provided advancements to aircraft functionality, including the sensor, computing, and communications infrastructure required to achieve autonomous flight.

By running critical test points at various altitude, Skydweller Aero also enabled the achievement of a preliminary world record claim: the highest altitude reached and sustained by a U.S.-piloted solar-powered aircraft, hovering at nearly 16,000ft.

Dr. Robert Miller, CEO of Skydweller Aero, commented: “This successful flight test demonstrates the incredible evolution of this aircraft since its acquisition. Leveraging rapid development and engineering processes, Skydweller has now begun collecting and analyzing real-world data to further refine and expand the software capabilities necessary for achieving autonomous flight. We are well on our way to meeting our ultimate objective—perpetual flight.”

John Parkes, Skydweller’s co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, said: “We are very pleased with our latest flight test and evaluation. With renewed fervor for zero-emission unmanned systems solutions, we believe Skydweller Aero is well-positioned to – not only prove our platform’s airworthiness and commercial viability – but also demonstrate that clean technology can enhance aircraft performance.”

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Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact