APM 2.5 Solar Powered UAV Project

Hello DIY Drones,

I'm taking on this project so I can find a Low Cost, Durable, easy to install solar solution for this communities APM 2.5 Operated Projects.  I've spent almost $800 USD of my own money to purchase electrical gauges and equipment to make this project possible.  Also I own the majority of the electronics needed for this project.   I'm still in need of about $600-$700 to have all the R/C Equipment I am going to need so I set up a donate button for my paypal if anyone is interested in donating to this project.  If I am able to get enough funding from the community to get this project off the ground I am willing to do a 25-50 video series that will include the unboxing and assembly of the Model R/C Plane, Electronics Installation, First Solar R/C Flight, 10 episodes on setting up the APM 2.5 for autonomous flight, and last but not least the series will finish off with how I setup my Electronics to provide solar power to my APM 2.5 and imaging equipment.

Click Here to Donate to the Project Via Paypal! - Thanks! -

Project Item List(Items Still Needed):

  1.  PROJET 98" RC Drone Fiber Glass 4-CH Brushless Remote Control RC UAV Drone Airplane ARF Kit V2 ($189.95)
  2. Solar Panels for Project ($200) *Waiting to officially decide on what brand of solar panels to go with because I first want to establish exactly how much electricity the UAV uses so I don't purchase solar panels that overcharge my battery*
  3. Solar Battery Charger Testing ($200)  *I currently have been purchasing various solar powered lights for outdoor use (That charge AA Batteries using only solar) and taking out the solar chargers and electrical systems to test on different solar battery solutions for R/C use*
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  • It looks like a neat idea however you should learn the apm first in every aspect before getting into powering it from other sources, for one as I understood from your video you need to learn more

    both apm versions are the same with respect to one having the need for the external magnetometer so the one you have will do the exact same as the newer one you mentioned buying, (save your money keep it)

    you don't need to buy a 3 axis stabilizer as the apm is one itself ,it would defeat the purpose of a self contained stabilizer


    I would recommend buying a slow flying glider type plane that can move very slow and not require much thrust to maintain altitude for long stretches, and use your apm on that until you have the main basics of tuning worked out then move onto a larger scale plane that you can equip with alternate power sources

  • I remember reading in the AMA magazine about 5 years ago of a guy who made a brushed motor solar assisted park flyer.  He said it worked on sunny days to give him about 30 minutes.  I don't remember exactly how he did it.  He picked the size because of the cost of cells.  Small and cheap is good for testing ideas before leaping full bore into an expensive failure.

  • Hi Joshua,

    You seem to be grappling with the feedback on your airframe, and are perhaps placing far too much emphasis on the length of the it's wings than it's overall suitability to your stated objectives.

    While Jerry's comments may have indeed been quite sarcastic, and could have been delivered in a softer manner, it would be a shame to dismiss them as pointless ranting.  The Mallard is a metaphor for the Project 98" and, while Jerry is drawing a long bow, it is not uninspiring.

    Considering the fact that you have yet to even purchase the airframe, but remain impervious to the idea of selecting a better basis for your project, I can't help but wonder if you are just a bit fixated on acquiring this particular scale model.  This would be, of course, completely understandable - it is nice bit of kit.

    98-inches of wing span is actually not necessarily "a lot of space if you want to really test the limits of low cost solar tech".  Have you considered the fact that the nice even curve on the top surface of the wing is integral to the amount of lift the wing will generate?  Have you considered the fact that solar cells, for all intents and purposes, are inflexible?  Have you considered the fact that, due to your intention to use one of the longest and thinnest wings imaginable, the curve you must somehow follow is made all the more difficult? Into how many slithers will you need to cut a 6x6 cell to fit this curve?  How much extra solder and wire will be required to link these smaller pieces? What cascading effect of....... What are the sums on the wing loading? Any idea which side of the stated wing loading you are going to be on?  Do you have a target in mind?

    As you can see the length of the wing is, on it's own, totally irrelevant (might even work against you).  Hence the need for further research.

    To help you understand what sort of foundation you should be building from, and perhaps bring some credence to Jerry's Steam Power reference - here is a formulated spreadsheet which I created to help me model a custom boiler.  This boiler is sized to drive a 4-5HP stationary steam engine turning a 2000W Dual Axial Permanent Magnet Alternator (with headroom to spare) as well as feed a hydronic heating system. Needless to say, it is better to do your homework on this sort of stuff before you start annealing copper and choosing the spacing for your rivets, but it does also save you a hell of a lot of stuffing around, or learning things the very hard and slow way. Solar is no different in this regard, nor is aerospace engineering (although both are far less dangerous to the hobbyist).

    If you think designing a solar charging system is far simpler by comparison, then check out this nice little spreadsheet I used to help me gain a better understanding of how one might go about getting off the grid (I mean really off the grid, petrol and all) and to estimate just how much it might cost.  Needless to say, as detailed as the various sheets of this spreadsheet may appear, this is just a rough estimation of what the real world results might be, and it certainly doesn't even come close to factoring in every relevant variable.  Nor does this constitute any bespoke engineering of any kind, it's just basic number crunching of off-the-shelf stuff really.  Obviously, it takes time, but that is how learn stuff.

    If your aim is to do a kickstarter inspired campaign within a niche community like this one, or anywhere else for that matter, you really need the following at a base minimum:

    1. Have a worthwhile and achievable objective (thesis or antithesis)

    2. Be able to demonstrate that you possess a reasonable understanding of the challenges you face

    3. Define a well reasoned and realistic plan to achieve your objective

    4. Explain why you are the right person to pull it off

  • I know people don't like the airframe I chose but it has a 98inch wing span... thats a lot of solar cell space if I want to really test the limits of low cost solar tech.  

  • Moderator

    They stopped making them years ago, you can sometimes find them at swap meets. I doubt very much if they used anything considered cutting edge these days. I would also like to solar assist a platform but its a little above my pay grade at the minute.

    Chris Norris spoke at our show earlier this year about solar cells.

  • Hi Gary,

    Thanks for the that. Looks like a nice simple design, featuring what looks to be ~1.8W 0.5V B-Grade monos. Do you have anything else on this model. It's manual perhaps? I would be very interested to learn what solution is used for encapsulation of the cells. EVA is the obvious solution, but the heat curing process makes this extremely difficult over foam construction.
  • Moderator

    Graupner used to make one


  • @Taylor Borel, Thats exactly what I plan on doing with the solar panels in my project!

  • @Jerry Hatrick,  Love the sarcasm!  I wasn't asking for pointless ranting just advice and feedback.  I'm not forcing anyone to donate to my own project.  If I don't receive many donations I'm just going to wait until I have more disposable income and have to dig into the project at a later time.  All I'm simply trying to do is dig into the solar panel market and find something that the common hobbyist can afford and tinker with.  I'm sorry if I just seem like some money hungry mongrel I just thought it would be interesting to see if the Diy Drones Community members would support projects via paypal but in the same way that kickstarter members support projects.  I have done plenty of research but just can't get real data until I purchase the airframe.  The 25-50 video series via youtube on the APM 2.5 and solar energy was just another thing I want to do to help out the newer members of the community who haven't been able to figure out their APM's quite yet.  APM 2.5 Masters like yourself wouldn't need this kind of help or video series but many out their do.  Even If I don't receive the donations needed I'm still going to make an extremely detailed video series on how to set up the APM 2.5 and the software.

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