The project Solar Drone is part of the sustainable development perspective, particularly the consumption reduction of fossil energy.
Nowadays aviation represents 5 % of global oil consumption; it has a significant impact on reserves (240 million tons per year) but also on pollution (2 % of anthropogenic CO2 emissions). Civil aviation is committed to stabilize its carbon footprint and wishes to replace annually 2 million tons of kerosene by biofuels by 2020 and also reduce by 50% CO2 emissions by 2050.
We considered a yet not exploited solution that could accelerate the deployment of alternative solutions to achieve these objectives: the use of solar energy through a series of photovoltaic panels fixed to the wings.
Our project is to develop a solar energy system whose objective is to increase the autonomy of a glider by recharging its battery using photovoltaic panels. Those panels will be associated with a supercapacitor which provides extra power during takeoff and ascent phases, as well as a charge regulator preventing any problems related to the energy produced by the solar panels. The primary objective is to demonstrate that we can increase by 50% the autonomy of the glider using our system.
The model that we have designed is the first step of our study seeks to demonstrate the applicability of our system in different sectors, such as:
- Airliner: The objective is to replace the power source of the generator, currently kerosene, by the energy generated by photovoltaic panels on the wings. Using solar panels will reduce by 10% the fuel consumption of the plane.
- Ultra-Light-Aircraft: currently its main problem is the takeoff. The Photovoltaic Panels/supercapacitor system will make possible taking off over short distances.
- Aero-modelling, the system we design can be sold to aero-modelling fans that have a particular interest for sustainable development, or that want to flight longer.
We put in place an energy management system embedded in the glider. The energy generated by the solar panels is fed into the battery, enabling a partial reload during the flight. The supercapacitor maintain the power required to operate the engine especially during periods of high consumption. The axis of innovation of our project is focused on the system of distribution of energy associated with a supercapacitor, photovoltaic panels and battery.
The tests have demonstrated that the flight range of our glider is increased, but it remains limited. Indeed, we performed our tests with low quality photovoltaic panels.
We reach the objective of improving the duration of batteries, and by extension the duration of our flight glider. Some improvements are known from us, such as using a capacitor instead of the battery.