By Alasdair Allan


Building your first quadcopter is almost a rite of passage for anyone interested in DIY drones these days. The availability of boards like the Ardupilot make it a lot easier to get started. However, seven masters students at Queen Mary University of London just raised the bar for the competition. They built a solar powered Quadcopter, which they dubbed Solar Copter.


While there have been numerous solar-powered aircraft, this seems to be the first solar powered helicopter in the world. Based around a unique frame design you can see a lot of potential for surveillance, search and rescue, and long term deployments in areas of the world where the sun shines a lot more than it does back in London.

You can even think further afield at Mars exploration, while prototype Mars aircraft have flow at altitude here on Earth most are aimed at long range exploration. Basing a fleet of light-weight small solar-powered quadcopters which would be launched from a future lander is an interesting possibility.


The project team of Aly Abidali, Jibran Ahmed, Shakir Ahmed, Irmantas Burba, Pourshid Jan Fani, George Kowfie, and Kazimierz Wojewoda hope to keep working on the Solar Copter after they graduate.

(Via the Fast Company.)

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  • They could have checked out ultra lightweight solar foils

  • They could use larger props, better motors, thus lesser power consumed, thus lesser solar panel and less weight.

    Just a thought :)

  • After them we decided to handle the Solar Powered Multirotor!
    Our first only solar powered multicopter flies well but low...
    And of course with additional help of three mirrors!
  • Big, ultralight sail == not so great in the wind unless the controller is running (from fast loop to motors) at a high rate (in the Khz range).

    But, this shows potential for very high altitude quads (10+miles up). I worked for a company that attempted to develop high altitude blimps as an alternative to LEO communication satellites. Problem was the materials ((Gore-tex) wasn't ready at the time. Solar-powered quads could be a viable alternative.

  • If one day it become possible to make 60% efficient solar panel (almost maximum efficiency) solar panel that concept could become more usefull.

  • It's the 1st time someone realized a beamed power copter could be called solar powered. missed the boat.

  • It must be nice to live in a world without wind :)  nothing like making a giant kite.  You just don't have the solar power conversion to make a solar quad copter practical since the surface area required to get enough power to fly would be huge.. as seen in this.   I really don't see this being very practical any time in the future.. maybe way out future... especially not using solar cells based on silicone... which we are pretty close to the theoretical limits of silicon.. really need a new material.  

    This seems more like a publicity stunt then a practical / useful product development due to the major design constraints... the biggest being the surface area required.

  • It is. 

    Very cool stuff.

  • Admin

    This does not appear to be the same solar powered quad that was in a blog post a week or two ago or is it? A lot of detail in this article.



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