Prepping for Flight

 I'd like to introduce SolarSight II, a long endurance solar powered UAV designed and developed by University of Michigan students in conjunction with MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. Over the past two years we've gone through a multi-phase project and are nearing completion with the delivery of an aircraft with a target endurance of 18+ hours. Moving toward this goal we've had a lot of work contributed from our members, electrical, mechanical, and aerospace alike.

The solution we've settled on is a 3.3 m span conventional configuration glider with a GaAs solar array (220 Emcore ATJ cells), Li-ion batteries (6s 10p 3100/3400 mAh), and a high efficiency brushless drive-train (Lehner-Motoren).

SolidWorks Rendering of Airframe


We've recently begun the flight test process with our most current airframe, which has been targeted for weight reduction and an optimized power system in order to achieve our endurance goals. This has been accelerated through the use of the APM 2.5 allowing data collection and various flight modes.




We're looking forward to flying with our full solar array in the coming weeks.

Project Webpage: http://solarbubbles.engin.umich.edu/~solarbubbles/index-2.html

RCGrous Webpage: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1839301


Phase II Aircraft Test Flights

Phase I Aircraft Wing Tip Cam (please feel free to skip to 1:00...)

Thanks for checking out our project,


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  • $6000.00 + encapsulation is actually a lot cheaper than I thought, still a bit pricey for hobbyists though.

    Money matters aside though, I am really looking forward to seeing your results

    An 18 hour endurance goal is really significant.

    There are some other solar cell technologies out there that could end up with these sort of efficiencies for a lot less money, but I think they are mostly no where near ready for commercial use yet.

  • Developer

    great project!

    I'm really pleased to see more and more projects use APM for academic research projects. I wonder if we should create a "Academic Research" forum as a place to discuss this sort of work? Often academic projects have different needs to other APM users, such as logging more detailed flight information, or interfacing to exotic hardware.

    Cheers, Tridge

  • I  believe these are Emcore ATJ cells (http://www.emcore.com/wp-content/uploads/ATJ_datasheet1.pdf). They run about $50 a cell to the average consumer. We were able to get reject cells at half the cost which work almost as good. 

  • Great work! Are these GaAs cells from Azurspace?

  • Regarding cost and availability it's quite hard to say. We purchased reject cells at a discount and had contacts with somebody to do encapsulation from previous university projects. For hobbyists this is definitely a barrier, and I'm very grateful to be able to do this work as a student.
  • Really great design , no reason it shouldn't work just fine.

    Unfortunately those solar cells are I beleive pretty much unobtainable if you aren't a University or Government.

    Anybody know the actual retail cost/value of all those 27.5% efficient solar cells, or where to buy them for that matter.

  • I love your project!  I'm waiting for the day that we can power all our quads, planes, and rovers with 100% solar energy (Also affordable for DIYers)

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