Drone launch (cropped) courtesy of California National Guard.

Solar-Powered Unmanned Aircraft Flew 9 Consecutive Hours

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An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) called the Puma AE was recently able to fly for 9 consecutive hours and 11 minutes, significantly longer than the rest of the aircrafts of this type.

According to Green Car Congress, the Puma AE is solar-powered, and it achieved this flight length using Aerovironment’s latest “long endurance” battery. This battery enables it to fly for 3 hours without solar power.

This plane is for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). It is a 13-pound aircraft that is water-resistant, can be assembled by hand in minutes, and requires no infrastructure (for example, no runways). It is currently in the research and development phase. A production version is planned for 2014. The Puma AE has even received a permit for flight in the Arctic.

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Nicholas Brown

Has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.

Nicholas Brown has 594 posts and counting. See all posts by Nicholas Brown

2 thoughts on “Solar-Powered Unmanned Aircraft Flew 9 Consecutive Hours

  • This looks very close to a working weapon of war. The mini-drone carries a working reconnsisance payload. 9 hours covers most of a day; for nighttime you would need different sensors, and a purely battery solution makes sense.

  • Qinetiq Zephyr already achieved a 336 hour flight a few years ago, although it was a much larger aircraft – running on a-Si cells. With Alta Devices cell efficiencies now exceeding 30%, I don’t think it will be too long until we see the 24-hr barrier broken for small man-portable hand-launched UAVs – just need to get a some more cell area on that Puma design and improve aerodynamics to minimise flight power requirements (perhaps higher aspect ratio wings to minimise induced drag) – and use 600wh/kg LiS cells as they come to market in the next couple of years (Oxis 2016 target).

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