Alta Devices Creates First-Ever Dedicated Solar Solution for HALE UAVs

Alta Devices Creates First-Ever Dedicated Solar Solution for HALE UAVs

By Energy CIO Insights | Saturday, April 27, 2019

A new HALE solar solution tailored to meet specific needs of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is launched by Alta Devices, as part of building on its long heritage of innovation. This new solar product can serve as a platform for cellular and Internet of Things connectivity. The solution offers pioneering features to maximize power, minimize weight, and provide sufficient protection from the harsh environment commonly found in the Earth’s stratosphere by merging breakthrough solar cell technology with several other innovations.

The solar power is critical for High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs that fly at stratospheric levels for extended periods and being used in a variety of communications, intelligence surveillance, search and rescue, border patrol, mapping, and many other applications without refueling. To allow the aircraft to carry a useful payload and enough batteries for night flight, the solar technology used must be extremely light-weight and the solar material must be flexible and durable because mechanical stress during flight can be challenging. Alta Devices’ new solar solution addresses these critical challenges and uses world-record efficiency single junction gallium-arsenide solar cells, producing industry-leading power-per-unit-area under high-altitude operating conditions. With close interaction with HALE customers and leaders in aerospace innovation, the company has developed a unique, lightweight packaging solution that protects the solar cells from the extreme UV, ozone and the thermal environment of the stratosphere, while maintaining a smooth, aerodynamic surface.

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The crucial pain points including mechanical stresses and vibration expected during flight, successful co-curing into lightweight composite structures, requirement of complex configurations that maximize cell packing factor, minimize electrical mismatch, and a design to utilize maximum surface area for solar are challenged with developing sophisticated module designs—providing an easy-to-integrate solution that maximizes system performance—for installation.

The new HALE solar solution is expected to simplify the design process and significantly reduce the complexity involved in manufacturing high altitude pseudo satellites.

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