Solar power is charged during the day and the battery is used overnight. PHASA-35 is an ultra-light drone that relies entirely on solar energy. The 35 meter wide aircraft is to be used as a satellite replacement.
PHASA-35 has already completed its first test flight . On February 17, the solar light aircraft designed by the armaments company BAE Systems and the aviation development company Prismatic took off from the Royal Australian Air Force training area in southern Australia and reached a height of around two kilometers. The automated Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft will soon reach heights of around 20 kilometers and then stay in the air longer than ever before.
Are there solar powered planes?
At these heights, PHASA-35 can fly over all bad weather conditions and does not get in the way of regular air traffic. Above all, however, there is always sufficient solar radiation at this altitude that the aviator can use. Because PHASA-35 is driven by two electric motors, which are supposed to deliver just enough propulsion during the stratospheric flight to keep the altitude. During the day, the motors are operated with solar cells that are embedded in the wings. They also charge several battery packs that deliver the necessary electricity at night.
The goal of the developers is that PHASA-35 can remain in the stratosphere for up to a year without landing and maintenance – if possible after the completion of final tests in 2021. The aircraft has a flight range of 35 meters, which still allow the aircraft to find a hold even in the thin atmosphere. The aircraft was constructed from ultra-light composite materials. Despite its size, the automated drone only weighs 150 kilograms.
Research is being carried out worldwide on light solar planes
PHASA-35 is to be used as an alternative to communication satellites or as a flying 5G station. After natural disasters, a functioning radio and smartphone network could be quickly restored in affected areas. The solar aircraft could also be used for Earth observation – for example, to monitor the spread of forest fires or to monitor the temperature development of the oceans. Of course, the high-flying drone would also be suitable for espionage and military missions.
PHASA-35 is not the first aircraft of its kind to set record flight values. Already in 2018, Zephyr S HAPS, an ultra-light solar aircraft from the aviation group Airbus and the military research company QinetiQ, had spent a full 25 days, 23 hours and 57 minutes in the air, reaching an altitude of 21 kilometers . With a weight of 75 kilograms and a span of 25 meters, Zephyr S HAPS was both smaller and lighter than PHASE-35. According to Airbus, Zephyr S HAPS could fly in ideal conditions for over a month without landing.
The US research company AeroVironment, which broke the height record for non-rocket-propelled aircraft with its Helios solar aircraft in 2001, is currently working on a solar drone called the Hawk30. She completed her maiden flight last year. The aircraft , which is 78 meters wide and powered by ten electric motors, is co-financed by the mobile and investment giant SoftBank . He wants to use several Hawk30 aircraft from 2023 for a mobile service called HAPS Mobile . For this purpose, the solar planes should stay in the air for up to six months and provide areas with a radius of up to 200 kilometers with internet and mobile phone connections.