In July, I wrote about Alta Devices’ thin-film photovoltaic material, which the company pitched as a green energy source for unmanned drones. This week, the company announced that AeroVironment had performed an outdoor test flight of a solar-powered Puma AE unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Using the solar material and AeroVironment’s long-endurance battery, the UAS flew for nine hours and 11 minutes.
According to AeroVironment, their battery technology extends the craft’s non-solar endurance by more than three hours. (The existing version of the Puma can fly for just two hours total). The lightweight Alta Device material, meanwhile, eliminates the power and load restrictions of other solar panels.
“[T]he solar Puma AE technology can produce enough power, while adding negligible weight, so that endurance is no longer an issue for most customer missions,” said Roy Minson, AeroVironment’s senior VP and general manager of unmanned aircraft systems.
The 13-lb. Puma AE is targeted at intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance applications. It is waterproof, can be hand launched, and can be assembled in a few minutes, according to the company. A production version of the drone is expected in 2014.