Solar-powered flying platforms have yet to prove their real-world applicability outside of targeted demonstrations. Monitoring glaciers in polar regions is in pole position to become a primary application, as the midnight sun offers ideal conditions for perpetual flights. What better place than the Arctic for testing the new generation of solar-powered aircraft? The Autonomous Systems Laboratory (ASL) has developed a pioneering solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), AtlantikSolar, capable of flying for multiple days. Glaciologists from ETH Zurich – who use UAVs to monitor glaciers in Greenland – need further endurance to deal with the immensity of the glacial landscape. Continuous daylight conditions in the Arctic Summer provide potentially ideal conditions for a solar-powered plane, which would drastically extend the flight time of surveying UAVs.
This gallery contains 12 photos.
One year after having demonstrated the 81-hour continuous solar-powered flight that is still the current world record in flight endurance for all aircrafts < 50kg total mass, the AtlantikSolar UAV has completed its next milestone by demonstrating the first-ever fully-autonomous … Continue reading
One of the prime applications that we are targeting with our solar-powered UAVs is to provide aerial support in large-scale disasters. From October 21st – 31st, in the Aventura AtlantikSolar@Brazil project, we had the chance to directly support our Brazilian partners through the first real-life (i.e. outside of research projects) disaster support mission with AtlantikSolar. Requested by SIPAM (Brazilian Amazon Protection System, part of the Brazilian Ministry of Defense), we were tasked to perform aerial sensing and mapping around the site of a disaster – a sunken ship that involved over 4400 dead cattle and 750t of oil spill – that had happened 2 weeks before.
In September, ASL’s fixed-wing team participated in the final land-based Search-and-Rescue demonstration of the EU-funded ICARUS project in Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium. Aerial robots, including ASL’s long-endurance AtlantikSolar UAV, where tasked to perform mapping and inspection missions in order to support ground robots and the Belgian B-FAST first response team in their relief efforts. Our UAVs stayed airborne for around 4 hours, all while providing live imagery of the disaster area to ground-based relief teams and the interested public. A video of the event is shown below, further information about the event can be found here.
Impressions from an autonomous environment mapping mission using pre-computed paths with guaranteed coverage as performed by the AtlantikSolar UAV prototype on its test flight #24 in Rothenthurm, Switzerland.