UMN Scientists Create A Solar-Powered VTOL Drone , The SUAV:Q
” A shape-shifting drone takes off like a helicopter and transforms into a plane in mid-air to fly all day on solar power. The drone is designed to provide affordable aerial surveys for farmers, so they can see where to irrigate and use fertilizer and herbicide only where needed.
Most drones are not appropriate for this because they have short flight times. Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos and his team at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis have therefore taken a new approach.
The Solar Unmanned Air Vehicle: Quad (SUAV:Q) takes off vertically before unfolding with the help of lightweight powered hinges into a flat, winged aircraft. Its design makes it easier to launch than a fixed-wing drone, and means it can also hover during flight to get a stable view of the land below. It morphs back into the quadcopter formation to land vertically.” “The idea is that anybody can buy this and carry it around in their pickup truck,” says Papanikolopoulos.
The drone has a wingspan of 2.1 metres and weighs just under 4 kilograms. It needs to be this big so that it can carry a multispectral camera for assessing crop health. The upper surface of the wing is covered in solar cells, yielding enough power for continuous flight during the daytime. It flies at an altitude of up to around 120 metres.”