Just recently, Titan Aerospace released a video of a solar-powered drone that will be put through rigorous testing later on this year. Named the Solara 50, the drone can theoretically fly without having to land constantly to fuel up. The implications are numerous – from the fact that a drone that does not need to land can be used in the name of science, to the possibility that it might be used for other ‘unorthodox’ purposes.
How does Solara 50 work?
Solara 50 has a 50-meter wingspan – a trait which conferred it its name. The propulsion system is based on a propeller situated at the front of the drone. An electrical motor running on 5 kilowatts powers the propeller that can help the drone reach up to 60 mph.
The drone’s airframe or body is made out mostly of carbon fiber and its total mass, including wings, is around 350 pounds. While this might seem a lot, it’s actually pretty light for a drone with a 50 meter wingspan. Speaking of wings – the top of the wings are coated with solar cells. A staggering total of 3000 such cells are used on the upper wings, elevator and horizontal stabilizer.
The wings also carry lithium-ion batteries that can store energy during nighttime where there’s no sunlight to power the drone. During daytime, the solar cells can produce up to 7 kilowatts of energy. Five out of those 7 will be used to fly the drone, while the rest to send measurements back to ground facilities or power other sensors and instruments. The airframe includes those sensors that measure location, speed, barometric pressure, heading, the motor’s rpm and internal temperature – all needed to guarantee a safe flight.
Solara 50 would fly at 65,000 feet – just so that it avoids most aircraft. But the high elevation has another important purpose – it allows the drone to fly over cloud formations and other weather that might interfere with the solar cells capturing the most energy they can.
The drone is currently designed to be used as an auxiliary GPS that does not need to completely leave Earth’s atmosphere in order to function for long periods of time. This means that it’s a lot cheaper than sending out a satellite to act as a GPS system. Aside from that, surveying animal migrations, tracking illegal activities like piracy and smuggling are also on its potential to-do list. But as a satellite so close to the ground in comparison to its space counterparts, it might also be used for other surveillance purposes – ones that will draw criticism to an otherwise great feat of engineering.
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Greenshine New Energy, LLC. Specializes in developing and manufacturing customized solar powered lighting systems for a wide range of lighting applications. At Greenshine we specialize in solar street lights, garden lights, and lawn lights for outdoor applications. Our lights can be installed anywhere, especially areas where grid tied electricity is not available.