Alta Devices and PowerOasis announced Wednesday they are partnering to develop the initial reference design for integrated solar and lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery power systems for small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). By combining Alta Devices’ solar technology with PowerOasis’ proven expertise in hybrid power systems, small UAV developers can focus on leveraging their core expertise in aircraft design and performance.
The reference architecture will target 2-4 meter (6.5-13 feet) span UAVs, using 5s-7s Li-ion batteries. The features will include high efficiency, light weight, 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 later this year, and will be available initially through Alta Devices and PowerOasis.
Headquartered in the UK, PowerOasis has a design capability combined with in-house power electronics and software expertise enabling bespoke or high volume, high quality, power solutions to be realized from existing modules or new designs. PowerOasis also works with next generation Lithium-ion cell manufacturers to develop state of the art application specific batteries incorporating PowerOasis control software and battery management features.
PowerOasis’ cloud based network management and analytics software enables cyber secure remote management and optimization of single vehicle deployments through to fleets of thousands providing customers with a complete end to end system solution.
By converting light of any kind into electricity, Alta Devices’ AnyLight power technology extends the energy source of a system, and in many cases, completely cuts the traditional power cord. The solution can be completely integrated into the final system, and is ideal for use in unmanned systems, consumer electronics, sensors, automotive, remote exploration, or anywhere size, weight, and mobility matter.
“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,” said Alta Devices 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. 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 will be able to leverage this reference design to manage the complete energy generation, storage and power management system for a UAV. This is without having to bring this capability in-house, saving time and resources than can be better allocated to payload design and aircraft aerodynamics.
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, and efficient solar cells, UAVs can now accomplish tasks that have not previously been possible. These include infrastructure inspection over long distances, long range search and rescue operations, precision agriculture on industrial farms and communications infrastructure provisioning to underserved locations.
According to Pete Bishop, CTO of PowerOasis, “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. That is no longer true with Alta Devices’ solar technology.”