Solar Powered Surveillance Aircraft
Bye Aerospace Inc. (Denver, Colorado), is collaborating with thin film PV manufacturer Ascent Solar. This is not one of those tie ups taking place everyday. The echo of this tie up will be heard for a long time in the alternative energy scenario. Ascent Solar is providing necessary solar energy technology to Bye Aerospace to develop a hybrid unmanned aerial vehicle (H-UAV). The aerial vehicle is named as Silent Sentinel. This aircraft will be stored using electric power, thin film solar photovoltaics (PV) and some additional technologies to enhance its low emissions, quiet operations and endurance. Bye Aerospace will also utilize a Williams International FJ33 turbofan engine for primary propulsion. Silent Sentinel would be a robust, long-range UAV that would integrate various clean-energy features.
Although the H-UAV will be designed primarily for military use, it is not ruled out that later on this technology can be incorporated into civil applications too. The military will utilize this H-UAV for border patrolling, search and rescue, visual and thermal reconnaissance, and forward air control. In future the same H-UAV can be utilized for forest fire detection, aerial law enforcement, pipeline and power line inspection, traffic control and aerial photography.
Charlie Johnson, who is the CEO of Bye Aerospace, mules over, “Ultimately, it will provide advanced tactical reconnaissance functionality while utilizing a uniquely long endurance, highly capable tactical sensor platform that is operationally stealthy and cost-effective to operate. The unique characteristics of the Ascent Solar flexible modules allow us to design this UAV to become very energy efficient.”
If we try to calculate the fuel consumption at 1,200lbf (5,300N) thrust of 0.486 lb/h/lbf with this engine it will be nearing to 500lbs (228kgs). And it will emit 1122lbs of CO2. This figure of CO2 emission doesn’t seem significant enough. It will be more or less similar to a helicopter. But right now we can derive consolation from the idea that building up solar power for aircraft will go a long way for clean and green technology.
The aircraft company is also thinking of venturing into plant-based feedstock as jet fuel. They are also developing as electric propulsion system for single and twin-engine light aircraft. Here they are trying to replicate the hybrid and all-electric automobiles technology.
Dr. Joseph Armstrong, who is the chief technical officer of Ascent Solar Technologies Incorporation, affirms: “Our flexible, monolithically integrated CIGS PV technology offers the ideal combination of low weight, higher voltage, and high performance that makes it ideal for applications, such as the Silent Sentinel, and we look forward to providing Bye Aerospace the materials they require for their vehicle.”