The Future of Solar Powered Drones
A recent report by the Global Market Insights reveals that by the year 2024, the commercial drone market would have hit $17billion in growth.
Yes, that’s how promising this emerging technology is, however, drones have hard one major limitation, in that they can’t stay up that long without the need for recharging.
That’s where the concept of solar-powered drones crept in. However, the idea of making such drones is still in its infant stages, but once it fully matures, to begin with, researchers plan to create drones that can fly or hover in the air for up to 5 years nonstop.
Giant companies like Google have expressed some interest in having solar-charged drones that can stay up ‘forever,’ to deliver broadband internet access to users in remote areas.
‘Clothing’ Drones with Solar Panels
Solar panels have always been bulky and feasibly impossible to power drones, but not anymore. Today, slicing the silicon wafers allows engineers to come up with flexible panels. This is what paved the way to the advent of lightweight, thin and flexible solar panels.
Top on that, MIT researchers are on record for using one atom thick graphene layer to make solar cells. Alta Devices, a solar company has also reported using Gallium Arsenide to grow layers of lightweight solar panel cells. Such like developments are expected to ease fixing of solar panels to the wings and sides of drones without weighing them down.
The solar technology is bound to improve as the idea to embrace renewable energies is becoming more widespread and has attracted funding for research. Alta Devices reports that they’ve managed to develop solar panels with an efficiency rating of up to 31%, compared to ordinary panels which manage only a maximum of 15% efficiency rating - on the higher side.
Now adding this to the fact that drones can use solar recharged lithium-ion batteries, it means the future drone would be able to fly day and night without running out of charge.
The artificial intelligence technology came in to make drones smarter; now, incorporating solar panels to the tech would make them more resilient.
How this Impacts Application
Solar powered drones would obviously be more efficient because they can stay up longer. They’ll be more instrumental in surveying storm damage, collecting security information (say from terrorists during night attacks,) as well as help to monitor poachers and wildlife from longer distances.
Such drones could also be more reliable when conducting rescue missions in collapsed buildings or caved mines.
As said earlier, giant companies like Google and Facebook have already confirmed that this concept is here to stay. As in, the two tech-farms were recently involved in trial projects which were meant to deliver broadband internet access using solar-powered drones to unserved areas.