Solar power lets UAV fly for 14 hours

Sept. 20, 2012
Solar powered UAV has interchangeable wings

UAS Technologies

The Silent Falcon, a UAV from UAS Technologies, Albuquerque, has thin-film solar panels mounted on top of its wings. The panels provide power for the sensors as well as the 1.3-hp electric motor which spins the propeller.

Lithium polymer batteries provide additional power for the sensors, which sit in a gimbaled housing on the belly of the aircraft. The inertially stabilized sensors include high-definition optical and infrared imagers, and a laser pointer. The sensor pod also handles video processing, letting the UAV track and identify targets, and stream images to ground stations.

The composite UAV can fly up to 20,000 ft at 12 to 60 knots. Users, such as the military and safety forces, will have the option of mounting one of three wings on the Falcon’s fuselage. The smallest (6-ft wingspan) lets the plane fly for up to 6 hr. The 9-ft wings can keep it aloft for 10 hr. And the largest wings (15-ft wingspan), will extend flight time to 14 hr. The larger wings carry more solar panels, which give the plane more flight time. For comparison, the Falcon batteries limit missions to 6 hr at night. Users can hand-launch the 27-lb plane or employ an optional rocket attachment. It lands on a skid or deploys a parachute that brings it safely to ground.

The Silent Falcon is scheduled to go into commercial production in early 2013.

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.

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