Autonomy is everywhere. As sensor, GPS, LIDAR and machine learning technology advance, the exciting reality of autonomously controlled aircraft, vehicles and devices is being realized. Many technology, aerospace, and transport companies are racing to develop autonomous vehicles that will fly, drive or even float.
However, one critical component of this disruptive technology is often overlooked: autonomous power. In order to be truly autonomous, vehicles must have a reliable and readily available power source. When a vehicle has to land or stop moving forward in order to replenish its battery, then it is effectively tethered and not 100% autonomous.
Adding fossil or hydrogen fuels aren’t viable solutions as they only extend operating time incrementally and still require replenishment. Adding additional batteries extends endurance but also adds significant weight and bulk. The only realistic solution for autonomous power is to use high efficiency, lightweight, solar power. Solar power takes advantage of an infinite resource (the sun) which can charge the batteries during the day, every day. Autonomy is substantially increased as solar power can be generated at any time while the aircraft or vehicle is in motion. And thin, lightweight solar technology like Alta Devices ensures that aerodynamic efficiency and design aesthetics are maintained.
As autonomous technology advances, power needs will grow due to increasing demands for sensors, radar and data collection. UAV users in particular will demand greater capabilities such as increased service ceilings, longer endurance, and faster rates of climb. We need to be talking about true autonomy and planning for autonomous power now.
Today is a big day for Alta Devices as we have announced a new generation of our solar cell technology moving us one step closer to true autonomy.
Our latest technology (Anylight Gen4) is specifically designed for autonomous aircraft and vehicles. It is extremely lightweight, thin, and flexible and holds the world record for single junction solar cell efficiency. The solar cells can be seamlessly integrated into the aircraft or vehicle skin so aerodynamics and design are not compromised. The cells can be stitched together into custom arrays with very high packing density, taking advantage of all available surface area.
Please see our press release here: https://www.altadevices.com/press/