Trade Resources Industry Views Alta Devices and Poweroasis to Develop Power System Reference Design for Small UAVs

Alta Devices and Poweroasis to Develop Power System Reference Design for Small UAVs

Alta Devices of Sunnyvale, CA, USA (a Hanergy company) and PowerOasis of Swindon, UK are partnering to develop the first reference design for integrated solar and lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery power systems for small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). By combining Alta Devices’ gallium arsenide (GaAs) solar technology with PowerOasis’ expertise in hybrid power systems, small UAV developers can focus on leveraging their core expertise in aircraft design and performance, it is said.

“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 Alta’s chief marketing officer Rich Kapusta. “By working together and providing a complete architecture for a well-crafted power system, PowerOasis and Alta Devices are streamlining the UAV development process,” he adds. “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.”

An aircraft designer can leverage this reference design to manage the complete energy generation, storage and power management system for a UAV, without having to bring this capability in-house, saving time and resources than can be better allocated to payload design and aircraft aerodynamics, Alta Devices says.

Many aircraft companies are turning to solar to provide added endurance to UAVs. A typical battery-powered UAV can normally stay aloft for only a few hours. With solar added to the wings, the same aircraft could fly all day. By combining the certainty of Li-ion battery power with the range and power extension of Alta Devices’ thin, flexible solar cells, UAVs can accomplish tasks that have not previously been possible, it is claimed. These include: infrastructure inspection over long distances, long-range search & rescue operations, precision agriculture on industrial farms, and communications infrastructure provisioning to under-served locations.

“Up until now, it’s been nearly impossible to develop a hybrid solar/Li-ion UAV architecture for small aircraft because the solar technology compromised the design too severely,” comments PowerOasis’ chief technology officer Pete Bishop. “That is no longer true with Alta Devices’ solar technology.”

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

high-efficiency, lightweight modular power systems; management of battery packs using a cell-vendor-agnostic, flexible battery management system (BMS); 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, and it will be available initially through Alta Devices and PowerOasis.

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