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Building your first quadcopter is almost a rite of passage for anyone interested in DIY drones these days. The availability of boards like the Ardupilot make it a lot easier to get started.  However, seven masters students at Queen Mary University of London just raised the bar for the competition. They built a solar powered Quadcopter, which they dubbed Solar Copter.

While there have been numerous solar-powered aircraft, this seems to be the first solar powered helicopter in the world. Based around a unique frame design you can see a lot of potential for surveillance, search and rescue, and long term deployments in areas of the world where the sun shines a lot more than it does back in London.

You can even think further afield at Mars exploration, while prototype Mars aircraft have flow at altitude here on Earth most are aimed at long range exploration. Basing a fleet of light-weight small solar-powered quadcopters which would be launched from a future lander is an interesting possibility.

The project team of Aly Abidali, Jibran Ahmed, Shakir Ahmed, Irmantas Burba, Pourshid Jan Fani, George Kowfie, and Kazimierz Wojewoda hope to keep working on the Solar Copter after they graduate.

(Via the Fast Company.)

Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker, tinkerer and co-founder of a startup working on fixing the Internet of Things. He spends much of his time probing current trends in an attempt to determine which technologies are going to define our future.


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Comments

  1. Don French says:

    Congratulations and good job! I was wondering if it is susceptible to being tossed about by the wind. I suppose that the on-board intelligence can drive the individual rotors in such a way as to counter turbulence, but a big flat surface would seem especially vulnerable and a lot of energy must be wasted keeping the craft stable in windy conditions. Might it make sense to include a wind holes?

  2. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but that thing looks like a giant sail to me. I don’t see it surviving any kind of deployment into the real world.

  3. Ryan says:

    Quite frankly, its a bad idea with mediocre execution.
    A quadrotor is one the most inefficient ways of flying available, and putting a solar panel on it is absolutely ridiculous.
    Their quad wasn’t even particularly stable indoors under a bunch of flood lights. I’d give it three minutes tops outside.

    There are already solar powered fixed wing UAVs that can fly for days.

  4. joe says:

    while this may not be stable in it’s current form, it’s a heck of a proof-of-concept (let’s hope it can scale up). I can see the military buying hundreds of these to monitor countries from the sky. One gets shot down, boo hoo, $200 down the drain. Or about a live google map? There’s so many possibilities with a system like this.

  5. Mark says:

    I personally just love the fact that it’s UK. Come on guys it’s England’s time to some ;D

  6. Greenish says:

    Mars may have ~1/3 Earth gravity but it only has ~1/2 the solar intensity and ~1% of atmospheric density.

    This is an excellent project but keep it on Earth if you want it to fly.

  7. After you we decided to handle the solar power too!
    Our first only solar powered multicopter flies well but low…
    And of course with additional help of three mirrors! :)
    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.188492521308897.1073741835.145535612271255&type=1&l=27eecb8d57

  8. If someone is able to provide a working and feasible solution to a longer quadcopter battery life, that will be a real game changer for this industry.