DIY Solar Airplane, Rev 2








Here is my new solar airplane (the previous version is here). 


As before, it uses the Parkzone Vapor's radio and motor, plus five Powerfilm solar cells.  In parallel with the solar cells, I include a tiny 20mAh lipo battery to keep the radio happy.  However before I hook up the solar cells, I make sure that there is not enough juice in the battery to run the motor (no cheating).


The wing is a vast improvement over the previous version.  It is stiffer torsionally, has more span, more area, and a better elliptical planform.  The wing and tail are covered with mylar from one of those emergency survival blankets.


Here are some specifications:

Wing span: 35in (89cm)

Wing area: 165 sq in

Total Weight: 42g

Solar Cell Weight: 18g


Last Saturday was the first calm and sunny day all year (Seattle).  Although conditions were not perfect (low sun angle, a bit too windy), I still managed to sneak in a few flights (see the video below).  I think with the right conditions, this airplane could fly for hours.  Finding a day with the right conditions might be challenging, though.  It is often very calm early in the morning, but the sun is too low.  By mid-day, when the sun is high, thermal activity tends to kick up random gusts.  I'll keep waiting for that perfect day... 




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  • Hello Louis,

    Congratulations for your very nice solar airplane

    Incredible to have built a so nice looking and light airplane model

    best regards,


  • Great landing :)
  • Hi Omer.  My set of 5 Powerfilm solar cells all together deliver about 2.5 W under perfect conditions.  They are not particularly efficient on a W/m^2 basis - only about 7%.  There are other cells with much higher W/m^2 metrics.  However, the cells are the thin film variety, and are quite light.  So on a W/g basis they are on par with other, more exotic cells.  BTW, in my previous post ( I made a mistake, quoting the performance at 0.27 W/g.  The actual figure is more like 0.14 W/g.  I think a better choice for solar cells would be the A-300 Sunpower cells, but they are harder to get.
  • Hi Jack.  More technical details about the solar cells, etc are given in the rev 1 post (
  • Nice work Louis. What is the efficiency of the cells and how many watts do they produce?
  • awesome !!! nice work
  • This is very cool.  Can you post more information on where you purchased the solar panels and what model?  What is the voltage output of each panel?
  • well done :)
  • Sounds excellent but video has disappeared :(
  • amazing project !!! bravo
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