Emission-free, long-haul flights could be a step closer to reality after a Dutch company created a solar-powered drone with panels integrated into the ‘skin’ of the wing.
The as-yet-unnamed device completed its first successful test flight at the end of the summer and is a collaboration between drone manufacturer Avy and solar specialists Wattlab.
“The solar technology developed in this project is fully integrated into the wing shape and does not add any extra weight,” explains Bo Salet, founder of Wattlab. “The technology of the drone can serve as a stepping stone towards more sustainable developments in the aviation and transport sectors.”
The business revealed the device will soon be used to transport medicines and help emergency services.
The fully-autonomous UAV is both fixed-wing but also able to take off vertically like a traditional drone and its breakthrough is to replace ‘panels’ with a ‘solar skin’ placed on the outer layer of the fibreglass wings.
This allows it to generate extra energy in-flight – opening the door to long-haul solar flying one day.
“Our goal at Avy is to accelerate the transition towards sustainable aviation,” said Patrique Zaman, founder of Avy. “By integrating solar cells into our wings, we make use of the cleanest energy available.
“The Avy drone has wings and is able to transport life-saving medicines by air in Europe and Africa, as well as support first aid services in Europe. Our test flight in September with the solar prototype showed promising results and was a first step towards a longer flight time.”
Avy is a self-titled ‘tech for good’ start-up based in Amsterdam and has been developing emission-free drones since 2016 for urgent medical transport, first-aid and nature protection.
Based in Rotterdam, Wattlab develops and produces solar panels and solar foils for businesses such as Airbus, Damen and Picnic.