Aerospace Engineering Department
BS in Aerospace Engineering
Awareness of green solutions to powered flight is a new trend taking the Aerospace Industry by storm. One particular application that shows high promise is that of photovoltaics on small UAV-type aircraft to help extend flight time. The purpose of this report is to document both research and experimentation performed on a small RC aircraft in order to better understand the electrical requirements of such a device. Using that research, speculation on how it can be used to design a mobile Aerial Deployable Autonomous Solar Powered Glider will be performed. Technologies such as CIGS solar cells and Lithium Polymer batteries showed potential as light-weight, high-efficiency sources of power and energy for our system. A theoretical power output of 66.7 W could be produced if the entire .356 m2 surface of the RC aircraft was covered in CIGS solar cells. As far as experimentation is concerned, it was found that a modest system current of 550 mA and voltage 5.4 V were required to run the RC aircraft servos and receiver at max conditions, using a set of four Ni-Cd batteries. At this current, the glider can last one hour (with margin) using 600mAh Li-Po batteries at that critical 550 mA current. A system power rating of 2.97 W was identified in the RC aircraft, compared to the 39.15 W generated by the solar panels experimented on separately. This led research to focus on the charging requirements as a driver for design rather than the power consumption of the servos. Further research showed that an average voltage of 12V is used for charging most hand-held devices. Ultimately, design created an aircraft that would operate at 14.8V (the voltage of four combined Li-Po batteries in series), being charged by CIGS solar cells.