Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Paulo Iscold

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


In order to accurately conduct the preliminary and detailed design of solar powered Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), it is necessary to have a thorough understanding of the systems involved. In particular, it is desirable to have mathematical models and analysis tools describing the energy income and expenditure of the vehicle. Solar energy income models may include available solar irradiance, photovoltaic array power output, and maximum power point tracker efficiency. Energy expenditure models include battery charging and discharging characteristics, propulsion system efficiency, and aerodynamic efficiency. In this thesis, a series of mathematical models were developed that characterize the performance of these systems. Several of these models were then validated against test data. Testing was conducted on specific components used by a solar UAS designed and built by students at the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, which completed a six-hour flight relying only on solar energy in May 2019. Results indicate that, while some models accurately predicted test outcomes, others still need further improvement. While these models may be useful during the preliminary and detailed design phases of a solar powered UAS, specific component testing should be conducted to converge on the most desired design solution.