Solar power in theory is a great way to fly your fixed wing drone forever, letting the batteries charge during the day, and flying on battery power at night. This idea has been shown to work with Facebook investing loads into their solar powered drone (Aquila) to provide internet to remote parts of the world. However its always nice to see a DIY hobbyist project that works just as well.
Prometreus as shared a video of his 2m wingspan flying wing that had a bunch of solar panels attached to it. He also shares all of the technical details in the video below so you can build your own version. His video demonstrated that when flying in optimal conditions the drone can capture enough of the suns energy to charge the batteries while flying. He also recently released another video two days ago showing that his solar drone was able to fly for 6 hours, covering 200km.
He is a fan of long FPV flights around the alps but limited battery life was one of the most annoying things that interrupted his flights. So that motivated him to build is own solar powered drone so he can fly as long as he wanted. The key factor when building a solar powered drone is to ensure the combined solar panels output the correct voltage to charge your batteries. However as you fly, and the sunlight changes the voltage will always change, other factors such as current draw will also effect the voltage. Prometreus designed his solar setup to work for his motor/ESC combination under optimal conditions when the sun is directly above. More advanced systems can use what is known as a maximum power point tracking device (MPPT) which always ensures you extract the maximum available power from your solar pannels. TO learn more about MPPT devices check out this instructables post which shows you how to build your own using arduino.
Solar Drone Parts List
- 30x Sunpower C60 125x125mm (max ETA: 22,5%)
- Solar cell surface: 0,467m²
- EzUHF 4ch RC-Rx
- Mini 90° Live Cam
- Albatros XXL
- Brushless DC Motor: 4220 650kv
- Hobbywing X-Rotor ESC – 20amp
- Carbon folding propeller 11×10’’
- 4S3,6Ah 30C SLS Lipo Battery
Hats off to Prometreus for his successful project at a very affordable budget. Fancy building your own solar drone, we would love you hear your thoughts, although I wonder how well it would work here with the UK weather!