Solar powered drones are commonly called as solar-electrically powered fixed wing unmanned aerial vehicles that display significant flight endurance over entirely electrical or even gas operated aerial vehicles. Under appropriate environment situations, a solar powered drone (UAV) stores surplus energy during day time which then keeps the aircraft powered throughout the night. The key driving factors responsible for the growth of solar powered drones market includes demand for heavy surveillance for crime investigations.
Additionally, rising rate of traffic and road accidents have been increasing lately. Heavy endurance capability is particularly a matter of interest for applications such as large-scale mapping, observation or telecommunication relay. Such specifications can be applied in search and rescue (SAR) missions, industrial or agricultural inspection, meteorological surveys, border patrol, air surveillance etc. Technically, a solar powered drone is designed to fly at a low altitude with efficient energy. Batteries are used during flight operations and while batteries are fully charged, excess energy is used to gain potential energy. The airframe design is built in traditional rib-spar construction method.
The wing’s pivot element is an inner cylindrical carbon-fiber spar used as a resistance to wing loads. Trapezoidal belts comprising four-carbon belts and a varying cross section are attached to the spar to optimally resist bending of solar cells and the main wing can be disassembled into three wing pieces of less than 2mm each. Further, energy generation and storage consists of cylindrical wing spars fitted with high energy density Lithium-Ion batteries to enhance the distribution of mass in a span loader. Avionics is mainly operated around a pixhawk PX4 autopilot which is an open source and open hardware with a Cortex M4 microprocessor running at 168 MHz and 192Kb RAM.
On a commercial scale, innovative technologies coupled with favorable funding for R&D in solar powered drones is a significant dynamic to the solar powered drones market growth. Commercial domains such as energy, entertainment, telecommunications, journalism and governments are now emphasizing on viability of solar-powered drones. Therefore, market dynamics coupled with market driving factors enable fertile opportunities for market growth and sustenance during the forecast period. To monitor the road mishaps and report for timely delivery marks the significance of solar powered drones. The device is also known to deliver stats on number of vehicles passing per day on a particular highway which is again important to understand traffic scenario in a particular area. However, power consumption and limited mode of operation is likely to hamper the market growth during the forecast period.
On the basis of application, the global solar powered drones market is segmented into energy, agriculture, government & defense, telecommunication, media & entertainment. On the basis of geographic segmentation, the global solar powered drones market spans North America, Latin America, Middle-East, Asia-Pacific and Africa. North America dominates the global market during the forecast period owing to defense and military operations. Latin America is anticipated to grow during the forecast period owing to expansion of solar-powered drone capacities.
APAC market such as India, China, Japan, Australia, Singapore are now turning towards adoption of this technology resulting out of social and security needs. Middle-East and African regions are anticipated to grow at a slower rate during the forecast period owing to slow growth in technological advancements. The key players in the global solar powered drones market include Boeing Phantom Works, Google (Titan Aerospace), and Airbus (QinetiQ), Facebook (Ascenta), AeroVironment/NASA, Lockheed Martin (Hale-D), Bye Engineering, and Atlantik Solar.
Research Support Specialist, USA