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Solar-powered quadcopter flies without batteries!

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In a NUS press release, the prototype was expressed as an achievement because of its ability to fly by only using natural sunlight. NUS students started developing solar-powered drones as far back as 2012, but previous models used a mixture of on-board batteries.

Applications

NUS students are still fine-tuning the quadcopter with hopes of one day commercializing the technology, but it was described to be one day viable for photography, small package delivery, surveillance, inspection, and even for scanning disaster areas. Batteries could also be installed as a second source of power during times when sunlight is lacking.

Challenges

NUS students had to find solar panels that were light yet efficient enough to power the drone’s propulsion system. Designing a frame and calibrating flight controls were also a challenge for the students, but the engineering problems were seen as a learning opportunity.

Even though the NUS students achieved a milestone in their research, they still have to factor in wind conditions and payload options into their final design. A quadcopter that can theoretically fly as long as sunlight is present has almost endless applications, but researchers still have a lot of work ahead of them before solar-powered quadcopters become ready for commercial use.

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