Companies Creating ‘Complete Architecture’ for Solar/Battery Hybrid UAVs

Alta Devices and PowerOasis are partnering to develop what they call “the world’s first reference design” for integrated solar and lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery power systems for small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

With the combination of Alta Devices’ solar technology and PowerOasis’ experience in hybrid power systems, small UAV developers can focus on leveraging their expertise in aircraft design and performance, the companies say.

“In the past, a UAV manufacturer had to work with multiple companies to obtain the solar technology, downstream electronics and power management software to create a solar/Li-ion hybrid powered system. Then, they had to design the system themselves,” says Rich Kapusta, chief marketing officer of Alta Devices. “By working together and providing a complete architecture for a well-crafted power system, PowerOasis and Alta Devices are streamlining the UAV development process. We are providing a complete system for electric aircraft and UAVs – eliminating the distraction and time required to focus on the intricacies of power design.”

According to the companies, an aircraft designer will be able to leverage this reference design to manage the complete energy generation, storage and power management system for a drone, rather than have to bring this capability in-house.

By combining the Li-ion battery power with the range and power extension of Alta Devices’ thin, flexible solar cells, UAVs can fly for extended periods of time for applications including infrastructure inspections, search-and-rescue operations and precision agriculture.

The reference architecture will target 2-4 meter (6.5-13 feet)-span UAVs using 5s-7s Li-ion batteries. Features will include as follows:

  • High-efficiency, lightweight and modular power systems;
  • Management of battery packs using a cell vendor-agnostic, flexible battery management system;
  • Communication to ground control and on-board auto pilot with continuous real-time power and energy data; and
  • Conditioned power outputs for critical power and payload systems.

The targeted release date for the design is late 2017. It will be available initially through Alta Devices and PowerOasis, the companies note.

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