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Increasing Performance of the RQ-20 Puma With Photovoltaic Cells

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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In this research, we focus on quantifying the flight endurance gains possible for a variety of flight profiles and environments by adding commercially available thin film photovoltaic cells and power electronics hardware to the RQ-20 Puma small unmanned aerial vehicle. We use a combination of precise aircraft sub-component power utilization measurements, in-flight performance data, and precise calculations of solar azimuth, elevation, and intensity. The result of our analysis is a novel computer model of the aircraft and photovoltaic system that accounts for geographic location, altitude, and time of year, and then predicts minute-by-minute battery charge over the course of a dynamic flight profile. We conclude that substantial flight endurance gains are possible in the most favorable environments, and modest but worthwhile gains are even possible with little sunlight. Based on our findings and a favorable cost-benefit analysis, we recommend that the Navy and Marine Corps pursue full-flight testing in support of fielding this technology across the RQ-20 inventory.

Subject Categories:

  • Pilotless Aircraft
  • Electric Power Production and Distribution

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