Alta Devices Launches Gen4 Solar Cells For UAVs and Other Vehicles

May 24, 2018


Alta Devices Launches Gen4 Solar Cells For UAVs and Other Vehicles

Gains in power added to weight reduction result in a huge overall improvement.

Alta Devices, a leader in single-junction solar cell efficiency, recently launched its fourth-generation solar cell technology, aka Gen4. A key feature of the technology is that it weighs significantly less than Gen3, offering a power-to-weight ratio improvement of 160%. Such technology is critical for applications like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), solar cars, and other electric vehicles. It can be used to generate substantial power over small surfaces with minimal impact to vehicle design criteria.

Autonomous power is essential because each sensor, processor, or communications device added to increase system capabilities simultaneously increases the power demand. For example, to be of practical use for applications like remote Internet connectivity, a high-altitude, long endurance, unmanned aerial vehicle (HALE UAV) needs to add sensor-based avionics and navigation, in addition to reserving power and weight budget for communications payloads. Adding batteries or other energy sources adds weight and bulk, and still may not delivered the required power.

As a specific example, is Alta’s Gen4 technology had been employed on a large solar powered aircraft, such as the Solar Impulse 2, rather than crystalline silicon, the weight savings would have been up to 100 kg. And it would have provided up to 15% more solar power.

Alta Devices Gen4 product is a lightweight, flexible solar cell produced with single-junction GaAs technology. The cells used are significantly thinner than the Gen3 product with better electrical performance. This translates to going from a ratio of 240 g/m2 to 170 g/m2 at the matrix level, including cell-to-cell interconnects, ribbons, and protective diodes.