New FAA Ruling for Commercial Drones Will Accelerate Industry Growth

Thursday, July 14th, 2016


The FAA has announced new rules for the small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry that will go into effect in August 2016.

These regulations (Part 107) apply to non-hobbyist drones that weigh less than 55kg, fly below 400 feet and at speeds below 100mph.

Under the new rules, UAS pilots will no longer require a manned aircraft license but instead can gain certification from the FAA. The FAA will manage a written in-person UAV-specific test at multiple testing centers. Additionally, an FAA airworthiness certification of a drone is not required. This opens the door for many more people to pilot UAVs and has been linked to the potential for over 100,000 new jobs to be created over 10 years.

Previously all commercial UAV operations required a Section 333 exemption which was a lengthy process that could take many months. Part 107 eases many of these restrictions and also provides a new online portal to request further exemptions. UAVs are still restricted to flying within the operator’s visual line of sight, not directly over people and only during daylight.

Alta Devices welcomes this new ruling as a positive step in establishing a clear regulatory framework that will help accelerate the uptake of UAV technology in emergency services, agriculture, communications, construction and many other industries. Manufacturers in these and many other industries are evaluating the use of our solar cells as a way to extend UAV flight endurance and we look forward to continuing to work with them.

New rules (PART 107) are listed here:


Alta Devices Interview at IDTechEx Energy Harvesting & Storage

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Alta Devices presented and exhibited at the recent IDTechEx Energy Harvesting and Storage event.

Topics included consumer electronics, sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, transportation and industrial automation.

In this video from the event, Rich Kapusta details the gallium arsenide-based solar technology that Alta Devices manufactures in Silicon Valley.

Alta’s solar technology is notable for a number of reasons; the cells are flexible, thin and exhibit very high efficiency. Alta holds the single junction cell efficiency world record at 28.8% and dual junction cell efficiency record at 31.6%. The solar cells can also be molded into various components. These cells are unique because they work well in low light (indoor conditions) and therefore are ideal for extending battery life or even replacing batteries in various IoT devices and wearables.

Interview with Alta Devices: Watch Video

Are You Using the Right Solar Metric?

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015


Adding solar can greatly extend the endurance and range of fixed wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). However, there may be associated performance tradeoffs to consider. So how do you choose the right solar photovoltaic technology?

Typically, efficiency is the only metric considered. In reality, this is an inadequate measure. UAVs have unique weight and area constraints that should be accounted for. Excess weight detracts from payload lift capacity and wing surface area is limited.


Staying Cool in the Sun

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

Alta Devices builds highly efficient solar material. We’ve set world records for single junction cells at 28.8% conversion efficiency and dual junction cells at 30.8% efficiency under one sun (non-concentrated light).  This means that over a quarter of the light that lands on an Alta solar cell is converted into electricity.  However, efficiency measurements are made in a controlled environment.  We wanted to understand our true outdoor performance and asked the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to help us.


Why Gallium Arsenide?

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

We are often asked why we use gallium arsenide (GaAs) to build our solar cells. It’s because GaAs naturally performs better at converting the sun’s energy into electricity than other materials under normal conditions. Further, GaAs solar cells deliver more energy in high heat or low light, two of the most common real-world conditions for solar cells! We have developed a way to manufacture thin, flexible layers of GaAs that utilize only tiny amounts of material but retain all of the performance benefits of a traditional GaAs solar cell. This allows the solar cells to be cost-effectively incorporated into a wide variety of end products, bringing our vision of “Solar Everywhere” even closer to reality.


Efficient Solar Electricity, Hold the Subsidies

Monday, March 9th, 2015

We’ve always considered efficiency — a measure of how much of the sun’s energy is converted to electricity — to be the most important aspect of solar cell performance.  In fact, Alta Devices is founded on the basic principle that very high efficiency solar cells are the single most important lever in reducing the overall cost of solar electricity. This is because most of the costs of a solar power plant, including the modules, the land, labor, hardware and wiring are directly proportional to the physical size of the plant.  Given this large fixed cost, increasing the amount of energy generated per unit area decreases the cost of the electricity produced. Simply put, higher efficiency solar cells deliver more energy per unit area, dividing down the costs associated with the power plant and resulting in lower cost electricity.


Alta Devices Solar Energy Technology – (em)Powering the Unplugged World

Monday, February 9th, 2015

At Alta, we believe that solar energy should be economically competitive with other sources of energy, without government subsidies.   We’ve developed a technology that we think does that.  Based on gallium-arsenide, our solar cells are thin, light and flexible and hold the world record for being the most efficient at converting the sun’s energy to electricity.  These are the characteristics that not only create an economically compelling source of clean energy, but also make it possible to capture the sun’s energy almost anywhere. (more…)