Increasing the endurance and payload capacity of unmanned aerial vehicles with thin-film photovoltaics
Carey, Seamus B.
Hernandez, Alejandro S.
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Prior research has shown that the endurance of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) can be significantly extended using thin film photovoltaic cells. The different power requirements of the RQ-11B Raven variants are explored in this thesis, and it is demonstrated that a CuInGaS2 (CIGS) solar array adhered to the wing of an RQ-11B not only extends the flight time but also expands the payload capacity of the platform. Power requirements and existing endurance of the digital variant of the RQ-11B were measured to establish a baseline of the platform’s performance and validate previous research. A modular wing with an integrated CIGS array was then designed and constructed to be incorporated with the existing power circuitry of the platform. The baseline tests were repeated to determine the power generated by the array and supplied to the digital RQ-11B. It was shown that a solar integrated RQ-11B has a larger payload capacity and extended endurance, while still maintaining the modular and expeditionary nature of the existing platform. The concept of this research may be applied to all unmanned aerial platforms in order to expand their power generation to operate simultaneous or demanding payloads without stressing the existing power supply.
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