BAE Systems, a U.K. defense industrial giant, will officially test-fly a PV-powered drone by the end of 2019; The drone is set to fly nonstop at an altitude of 20 kilometers above sea level for one year, for the functions of communications, real-time monitoring, and aerial exploration. In the future, it may become a low-cost substitute for communications satellites, and be used for 5G services.
The drone, dubbed the PHASA-35, comes with a pair of long flat slender wings with a total wingspan of 35 meters, and features a slim fuselage. The device is made of ultra-thin composite carbon-fiber material and carries lightweight solar panels and battery. It weighs a total of 150 kilos and is capable of carrying 15 kilos of load.
The drone is currently undergoing system testing at the company’s plant in Lancashire and is scheduled for test flight by the end of 2019. Nigel Whitehead, the chief technology officer of BAE Systems, points out that the test flight will last approximately 12 months before the drone is ready for service.
Like BAE Systems, a number of other companies from around the world are also developing PV-powered drones. Airbus, for instance, has test-flown its PV-powered drone, dubbed the Zephyr S, in 2018. According to the company, the drone had spent eight hours to reach the stratosphere at an altitude of 23 kilometers above sea level and flew at a daily speed of 1,700 kilometers for 26 days.
(Collaborative media: TechNews, photo courtesy of BAE Systems)