Solarcopter is a solar powered remote controlled helicopter-prototype designed for multipurpose applications. It is a development of Master students from Queen Mary, University of London.
[Image Source: Design Boom]
The very first Solarcopter prototype was designed to fly solely from energy generated from a photovoltaic panel, but with the assistance of a reserve battery that was also charged by the copter’s solar panel. The purpose of this battery was to provide energy when the solar panel was not able to do so.
After that, the students improved their prototypes and the following Solarcopters are able to fly, take off and hover without the need of a reserve battery. “With the current design it will fly for as long as the Sun shines in theory and we have tested this experimentally for a substantial amount of time. There is still a lot of work to do, but we are pleased to say that we have proved that it works.” – the students’ explanation.
Most of the Solarcopter parts are handmade and the students have designed their own Sun simulator for testing. The team has conducted extensive tests and modeled many different aspects of the design using various engineering software to develop their prototype further.
According to developers, the Solarcopter will be useful for a range of applications such as surveillance, search and rescue, cheaper transportation, and even traffic management. For that purpose, the students continue their attempt to enhance and improve the prototype by trying to add cameras, GPS systems, and other useful components that could be changed, depending on the required application.
"We are still looking for opportunities to reduce the weight of the current design and increase the thrust. We are also working on improving our stability and control of the aircraft and at the same time finding areas where we can further increase its efficiency," said the students. “The ideal goal would be to reach a feasible design that is strong, light and powerful enough to conduct all the purposes mentioned.”
"For me, this is the one thing that needs to be done for humans to go to Mars," Franklin Chang-Díaz told Interesting Engineering in an interview.