News from the federal Naval Research Laboratory shows how solar energy is becoming more important to national defense and military systems.

A May release described the use of photovoltaic arrays and solar gear in ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ or ‘UAVs,’ also referred to as ‘drones.’ UAVs represent a real path to innovation in many areas of our lives, from environmental research to e-commerce. Getting solar power under the hood is going to add new possibilities to how we use these independent flying vehicles.

New experiments at the NRL are looking into the power of “cooperative autonomous soaring” to enable UAVs to do more with less power, and operate more efficiently for such purposes as surveillance and reconnaissance.

Dr. Dan Edwards, an NRL aerospace engineer, explains the benefits of “solar-soaring” research as ways to “extend the flight endurance and mission operations of an aircraft.”

These trials are by no means the only example of solar drone work: in this video, Ali Jaafar of Altran Aerospace describes a 100% solar “airbus” that can go long distances.

The NRL’s design involves a photovoltaic array put into the center wing panel of a UAV, converted into useful DC voltage.

The NRL is actually testing two modes of solar flight. One is passive soaring, where low-energy goals allow for coasting. Another mode, supported by algorithms, allows the aircraft to catch updrafts to move like some bird species, making use of the natural power of wind vectors.

These tests, which have been taking place for some time, are just one of many examples showing how solar power is finally becoming a mainstream power source. We’re hearing a lot about solar, in many industries and many spaces. The NRL drone tests are an example of solar power in defense research, where the vanguard work on new energy sources often takes place. But solar is also being aggressively pursued for commercial and residential use, and for use in cars, and on boats, and on buses. It’s a natural, renewable power source for today.

SunDaySolar is one of the most active local companies working to help companies and property owners make the leap to a more affordable and sustainable power supply, around the Albemarle County area and beyond.

We understand how solar is taking off in a big way, now that the technology is here, and cost issues have been largely worked out. The past few years have seen a “solar boom” that’s not going to stop any time soon. Let SunDaySolar work with you to outfit your business or residential property with easy, user-friendly and cost-effective solar systems to make you an early adopter while saving money and saving the planet.

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