A quadcopter developed by a team from the National University of Singapore is claimed to be Asia’s first fully solar-powered drone.
A team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has achieved a major step forward in stretching the capabilities of quadcopter drones by developing and flying a design powered solely by natural sunlight.
The current prototype has flown above 10 metres in test flights utilising solar power with no battery or other energy storage on board — claimed to be the first time in Asia that a 100% solar-powered vehicle has achieved this feat.
The drone was developed as a student project under the Innovation & Design Programme (iDP) at NUS Faculty of Engineering.
Constructed using lightweight carbon fibre material, the quadcopter drone weighs in at 2.6kg, and has a surface area of about 4m2. It is fitted with 148 individually characterised silicon solar cells and supported by a frame equipped with four rotors.
The solar-powered quadcopter drone can be controlled by remote control or programmed to fly autonomously using a GPS system incorporated into the aircraft. The aircraft can potentially be used as a ‘flying solar panel’ to provide emergency solar power to disaster areas, as well as for photography, small package delivery, surveillance and inspection.
Batteries can be incorporated to power the aircraft when there is no sunlight or for charging to take place during flight to enable operation when it is cloudy or dark. Other hardware such as cameras can also be included for specific applications.