Solar Powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the Future

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is reaching out to the sun for power, to help unmanned aerial vehicles soar high in the sky. The unmanned aerial vehicles or UAV’s will soon fly for many hours by integrating solar photovoltaics presence in these UAV’s.

The NRL Research

NRL through its Photovoltaic Section and Vehicles Research Section is taking up the initiative. By investigating the solar photovoltaic presence, they are trying to help in long duration flights of sailplanes using the power from the sun. These efforts are being taken for better surveillance, for24 X7 information and for reconnaissance mission. Warfighters will benefit by the solar energy as dependence of batteries or other fuel will decrease, when they are sent out on their missions. The solar UAV’s have already flown for 10 hours using autonomous soaring and solar photovoltaics. But to capture energy from the environment is an operation that is still in its investigation stage.

Research in Progress

The process of converting power from solar arrays into DC current to help population of electric motor is being done by the distribution system and power management. A photovoltaic array has been custom built and integrated into the PV-SBCX aircraft to meet emergencies into the center wing. A soaring software algorithm has been autonomously been added to make them soar like birds. The UAV which has been well equipped with solar wings has flown on April 19th, 2017, for 11 hours and 2 minutes. Further research has been done to make less expensive, autonomous and unmanned systems to help in various mission scenarios by the Vehicle Research Section from NRL. With a range of dedicated professionals, such as engineers, technicians and scientists, using state-of-the-art technology in unmanned systems.

Research is being conducted to develop solar cell technology to provide the required power source to fly the warfighter by the Photovoltaic Section. NLR makes use of various engineers, physicists and chemists for this purpose.