New solar UAS record.


This is some really exciting news. Curious what FC is onboard. From the team:

The AtlantikSolar Unmanned Aerial Vehicle took off on June 30th at 11:14 o’clock to attempt the “holy grail” of solar-powered flight: The crossing of a full day-night cycle on solar-power alone. More than 28 hours later, on July 1st at 15:35, the aircraft landed safely and with fully re-charged batteries , thus proving AtlantikSolar’s perpetual endurance capability. The long-endurance flight capability shown by AtlantikSolar is of significant interest for large-scale disaster support, industrial inspection or meteorological observation missions, especially in the compact form of a hand-launchable 7kg UAV such as AtlantikSolar.

The flight was performed at the Rafz RC-model club airfield in excellent sun conditions. After take-off at 11:14 at 57% battery state-of-charge, the aircraft was quickly setup to follow an efficient and fully-autonomous loitering path, which allowed a completed battery-charge at 14:08 o’clock. The noon and afternoon were characterized by strong thermal up- and downdrafts, but enough power was generated by the solar panels to keep the batteries full. Their discharge started only when the sun slowly settled at around 19:30. The night flight provided calm conditions, with the autopilot keeping the aircraft stable despite horizontal winds of up to 5m/s, and the safety pilots keeping a good eye on the aircraft using its position indicator lights. Flying at an average airspeed of 8.4m/s (point of minimum sink rate) and an average power consumption of 43W during the night, the aircraft received first sun at around 5:50 o’clock, and maintained a minimum state-of-charge of around 35% until the solar modules re-generated enough power to stay airborne. After 24 hours of continuous flight, the aircraft had recharged its batteries to more than they were a day before, i.e. to 84% state-of-charge, which proved the perpetual endurance capability of the airplane. In addition, the batteries were fully charged at 12:43 o’clock and therefore 1h25 earlier than on the day before. AtlantikSolar landed safely at 15:35, thereby setting a new Swiss endurance record for unmanned solar-powered flight, and improving the previous internal record (ASL’s Sky Sailor) by a bit more than an hour.

The project’s next goal is to extend the flight duration to more than 80 hours (3 days), thereby beating the old endurance record for solar-powered UAVs below 20kg (48h flight by the 13kg SoLong UAV in 2005) by more than a day. In addition, upon achievement of 80 hours flight endurance, the 7kg AtlantikSolar would be the third-longest flying aircraft in the world, only behind Airbus Space’s 53kg Zephyr and the 2300kg Solar Impulse 2.

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  • So now they've achieved 3X "perpetual flight"?  Wow!

    So I'm confused???  Mathematically is that 3 x infinity or is it infinity + 3?

  • I guess you were not that far off... note that the aircraft presented in that (slightly outdated) paper is AtlantikSolar 1 (AS-1, which "only" did a 12 hours flight), whereas the 28 hour and 81 hour flights were done by AtlantikSolar 2. Main differences: Solar Module efficiency ca. 23.6% (20.X% for AS-1), battery mass 2.9kg (3.5kg for AS-1), overall weight 6.83kg (7.4kg for AS-1 mainly because of the batteries).

  • Philipp Oettershagen - Thanks for the link mate.  So much useful info!

    To be honest, I am pretty surprised how far off I was with my estimates. But there you go!

  • @Quadzimodo: Great guessing ;) See this paper for the exact solar-panel & battery setup.

    @Jake Stew: The term "perpetual endurance" is used commonly in solar-powered UAV literature. The precise expression would of course be "energy-wise perpetual endurance capability under these specific meteorological conditions". Note however that it is not that un-perpetual, as the airplane recently completed a 4-days and 3-nights flight, and then mainly landed because the important goals had been achieved and the ground-crew was getting awfully tired.…
  • Looks like interesting work.  A shame they had to ruin it by hyping it with ridiculous statements like saying this test flight is "proving Atlantik Solar’s perpetual endurance capability".

    A real shame to tarnish this achievement with such moronic logic.

  • My guess on the setup is...

    PV ARRAY: 0.58V x 5.93A = 3.42W @ 6.3-grams per cell x 88 cells = 51.04V x 5.93A (or 25.52V x 11.86) = 300.96W @ 554.40-grams per array.


    ENCAPSULATION: 100-grams per square meter for encapsulation = 100-grams x 1.4 = 140-grams




    MPPT SOLAR BATTERY CHARGER: GVB-8-Pb-24V (or GVB-8-Pb-48V) = 110-grams (without enclosure)


    BATTERY: 3.6V x 3.4Ah NCR18650B Battery x 6S10P (or 12S5P)  = 21.6V x 34Ah (or 43.2V x 17Ah) @ 2730-grams


    Purpose built airframe (including electronics, servos, motor, prop, spinner, etc) = ~2500-grams


    (published) AUW of ~6300-grams
  • This really is a sensational project and Atlantik Solar have set themselves lofty yet perfectly achievable goals.

    Simon - I disagree. The PV cells used here appear to be A300 or (more likely) C60 series from Sunpower (which is what Zephr and others are using also). These cells are readily available and can be purchased for around USD$5 in their raw form. My expectation is that the USD$10,000/sqm figure you were quoted would be the all inclusive cost of the custom solar array 'modules' delivered in their finished encapsulated form.

    The dollars go into the encapsulation process which will set you back up around USD$150 per cell for the lightest possible encapsulation scheme.  For example - This plane uses 88 cells to deliver 1.4m of solar area... or 88 x USD$150 / 1.4sqm = USD$9428.57... in other words - near on makes no difference USD$10,000/sqm.

  • amazing, the year 2015 will be remembered as the year of solar powered aircrafts. solar impulse...., atlantik solar....,

  • Curious to see Trent's results in comparison... I'm confident Trent will give us details on his build so we can do all of this with hobby grade components. 

  • I have met them at ETHZ about 3 years ago. They already performed test flights that were longer than 24h back then (no payload). If i recall correctly, the Solar panel they are using is costing roughly 10'000 usd/m2. It is a research project, I don't think this technology will be available soon for the masses.

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