George Bye at the DaVinci Institute’s “Night with a Futurist” talking about the future of solar powered UAVs
George Bye is the founder of Bye Aerospace, a Colorado company involved in the design of a unique solar-electric powered aircraft that use solar electric energy, stored in batteries, to drive a propeller to both fly and stay aloft for long periods of time. A special combination of technologies and design will enable the current small UAVs to maintain station, with flight endurance of 8 to 12 hours at a time – several multiples of typical aviation gasoline fuel engine UAVs. A more extreme version of this capability will be engineered into Bye’s future aircraft (both civil and defense).
Next generation solar UAVs will be fully automated and built for extreme endurance, flying above weather pattern at altitudes of 50,000 feet for months, possibly years, on end.
Operating much like low flying satellites, 1,000 times closer than those in geosynchronous orbit, these aircraft will offer direct line-of-sight communications up to 300 miles in each direction, with 280,000 square miles of coverage.
Titan’s Solara 50 drone, projected to stay aloft for 5 years at a time
Recently Google bought Titan, and Facebook bought Ascenta, similar solar powered aircraft companies to launch their own fleets of near-earth satellites.
With Titan, there are solar cells all across the 50m-wide upper wing surface, the elevator, and the horizontal stabilizer, with a total of 3,000 panels on the Solara 50 in all. Together, Titan says, they’re good for up to 7 kilowatts of power.
That’s enough not only to keep the Solara flying through the day, but to charge up the Li-Ion batteries spread throughout the wings that power the drone overnight. It’s capable of carrying around 70 pounds of payload.
Clearly this is a hot new technology, and these companies are on the leading edge of these developments.