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Improving the Endurance of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Utilizing Flexible Solar Cells


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Though studies and experimentation have been done regarding solar UAVs, it appears that these studies have been primarily focused on the development of futuristic prototypes or proof-of-concept vehicles used under very controlled conditions and without regard to extensive practical applications. On the other hand, in this research we seek to examine the flying endurance benefits that may be achieved by equipping the Nimbus ProVTOL small unmanned aerial aircraft with commercially available thin film photovoltaic cells. Typical miniature and micro UAVs that run on battery power have an endurance of thirty minutes to two hours, after which time they need to be retrieved so that the batteries can be recharged, or so that another single-use battery can be installed. The retrieve-prepare-relaunch cycle can be greater than the on-station time for the UAV, and greatly reduces the utility of these systems to the intelligence gatherer or war fighter. The focus of this research is to determine the estimation of the power consumption of the Nimbus ProVTOL and the power generated from an array of solar cells installed on the wing of the aircraft. With that information, we can approximate the additional flight time gained by the installation of the solar array.



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