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:


Congratulations to Solar Impulse 2

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Solar Impulse Alta Team

On Saturday April 23rd, Solar Impulse 2 crossed the Pacific completing its ninth leg on a journey around the world without using a drop of fuel. This journey marks a new era in aviation – one that is based entirely on renewable energy. On behalf of everyone at Alta Devices, we congratulate Andre Borschberg, Bertrand Piccard, and the entire Solar Impulse 2 team on a truly remarkable accomplishment.


Enabling Autonomous Applications for IoT

Friday, February 26th, 2016

This week, Alta Devices and Analog Devices announced they have collaborated on pairing two highly energy efficient components together. These components are the new Analog Devices energy harvesting power management unit (PMU) and Alta Devices solar cells. Alta Devices holds the world record for solar efficiency at 28.8%, and at 18uW per cm2 in 200 lux, this solar technology is able to harvest significant energy from indoor light. “Solar is not just for sunlight anymore” said Rich Kapusta, Chief Marketing Officer, Alta Devices. The Analog Devices ADP509x is one of the most efficient energy harvesting PMUs on the market. This pairing ensures devices can run longer under any lighting condition.

Energy harvesting (ie. from solar) is central to fully autonomous IoT solutions. Consider a large building that has many smoke detectors. Battery replacement is costly, difficult and time consuming.

Autonomous IoT devices are functional indefinitely and likely never need their battery changed. Large savings in resources and costs are possible. Other potential applications include wearables and devices for remote locations.

We are excited at the huge potential this pairing will unleash in the IoT market.

Read the Press Release

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

Highlights from the UAS TAAC Conference

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015


Last week Alta Devices participated in the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Technical Analysis and Applications Center Conference (TAAC) in New Mexico. This is an annual conference for members of the UAS community and is now in its 17th year. Attendees included DoD, NASA, DHS, NOAA, FAA, BLM, USGS, AIA, academics, user groups and private industry.


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.


Create Electricity Where it Simply Isn’t Available

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Electric vehicles are a good example of where access to electricity can be limited. The batteries of today’s electric vehicles must be maintained at a specific temperature in order to maximize storage capacity and their overall lifetime.  What happens when an electric vehicle is left parked in the hot daytime sun?  The cooling system for the battery system will be drawing energy from the same battery it’s trying to cool!  In some cases, this could result in a catastrophic discharging of the vehicle’s battery, destroying the battery.  Why not integrate some flexible solar film into the roof of the electric vehicle and solve this problem?  A car rooftop can hold one to two square meters of solar material.  Using Alta’s gallium-arsenide technology, flexible sheets of solar film can be molded directly into the car’s glass roofing material.  That provides over 500 watts of generation capability on the top of every car roof!


Solar in Any Form

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

What if you needed a wrench and when you tried to buy one, you found that they were all the same size? How many problems can be solved with a wrench of only one size?  Eventually, you would have to find other ways to solve problems and relegate the single-sized wrench to the class of projects that happened to be compatible. Much the same is true of today’s solar solutions: they come in one size (large, flat plate glass modules) and are suited primarily to the task of capturing the sun in large open fields.  But what about all of the other places where energy is either unavailable or not cost-effective? Solving that problem requires “wrenches” of different sizes, and even different shapes.  That’s how we think about solar solutions at Alta Devices.  The “one size” mentality does not fit all situation, and in fact, a wide variety of alternative forms are required to really address the potential for addressing the world’s energy needs in a cost effective manner.