Is Solar a Game-Changer for UAV Flight Time?

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) market has grown rapidly in recent years, in both military and commercial markets. For small, unmanned systems, increased endurance means less risk of damage to the aircraft and the ability to cover more ground. Lightweight, high efficiency solar cells are a way to power your vehicle with virtually no impact on weight or aerodynamics.

Solar-Powered Drone May Be Capable of Perpetual Flight

Researchers from the Autonomous Systems Laboratory at Stanford University and glaciologists from Swiss university Zurich ETH have been exploring the advantages of keeping drones in the air by using solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles. Their drone AtlantikSolar completed the first-ever solar-powered flight in the Arctic, lasting 13 hours, giving the team a clearer sense of what the future may hold for drones.


Tripling UAV Flight Time —NRL Case Study

NRL has integrated Alta Devices thin flexible GaAs solar cells into the surface of their UAV wings to extend flight time. Using stored energy alone, the plane can fly for approximately 4 hours. Alta’s solar technology was able to increase the flight by nearly a factor of 3.

The NRL aircraft has a surface area of 1.3 meters squared, and is covered with 4 laminated subarrays of 4 parallel by 18 series solar cells. The flight duration with Alta’s solar cells was 11.2 hours, and the solar provided 587 Whrs, almost twice as much as the battery. Upon landing, the battery still had a 40% charge, which could have extended the flight nearly 1 hour. Because the aircraft was just for demonstration, the cells weren’t installed in a way to optimize surface area; fully populating the wing could extend the duration of the flight beyond sunrise and sunset, depending on the battery capacity.

Upcoming Alta Events

UAS TAAC Conference

(Unmanned Aircraft Systems Technical Analysis and Applications Center)

December 5-7, 2017
Eldorado Hotel
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Features attendees from numerous government and private organizations. Exhibitors include major stakeholders from national laboratories, military organizations, universities, aviation user groups and private industries.

Rich Kapusta, CMO at Alta Devices, will be speaking at the Autonomy/Technology session about autonomy as it relates to unmanned systems.


Highlights from the Alta Blog

Why Use Gallium Arsenide Solar Cells?

Alta Devices uses Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) as the basis for our solar technology. It’s a lesser known material so we wanted to share some key information.


Alta Devices and Audi: Defining the Solar Car of the Future

Alta Devices is excited to announce that we are working with Audi to integrate solar into the roofs of Audi cars. This is the first time Audi has used Alta Devices solar in its vehicles.