Solar-powered aircraft mainly includes UAV, spacecraft and hot-air balloons and airships, etc., of which UAV is the most typical application.
The wings of a small-scale UAV are generally 1 to 3 meters in length. Power plant and airborne equipment (balancing devices, cameras, communication and telemetry devices) are powered completely by cells. After an average flight time of 45 minutes to 2 hours, the UAV must return to "base" for charging. Small UAVs are mostly used in the international military arena, and the number for civilian use has witnessed rapid growth in recent years.
The high-altitude long-endurance UAV is used for military operations and has the advantages of fast speed, high altitude, and instant video signals provided. It adopts a wide-field-of-view lens, or wide-beam scanning radars to monitor dynamic movements of motorcade and people in movement, open deserts, and activities for targets on the sea, providing statistics and differentiation of tactical information over a wide range. The UAV has huge wings, easy for the pavement of efficient GaAs components, providing complementary electricity for fuel cells. It can fly at an altitude above 21 kilometers for several years, like a satellite. The size and voltage of GaAs modules can be customized, and the modules can be attached on the surface of the aircraft (including curved surfaces). The power-to-weight ratio is 1W/g, and power density is 250W/m2. GaAs modules can be used to provide power and continuous charging of the UAV during the flight, significantly extending the flight time. It reduces the number of "hard landings" and allows a wider range of monitoring, surveillance and communication tasks.
Hanergy's 4.4m fixed-wing UAV uses thin-film solar cells, extending the endurance between 6 to 10 hours and the scope of work reaching 400 to 700 kilometers. It is the world's most enduring industrial solar UAV, can be widely used in the military, civilian and commercial markets, including for oil and gas pipeline patrolling, agricultural monitoring, military police patrolling, disaster and emergency rescue, aerial photography and land surveying, natural resource testing, border and coastline patrols, mining monitoring and more.