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Solar-powered Silent Falcon UAV unveiled

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August 9, 2012

Silent Falcon has a flight endurance of up to 14 hours

Silent Falcon has a flight endurance of up to 14 hours

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UAVs have become increasingly common in everything from carrying out missile strikes against terrorists to helping map archaeological sites. They come in all sizes from jet-powered behemoths to ones so small that they can sit in your hand. On Monday, Silent Falcon UAS Technologies of Alburquerque, New Mexico rolled out the latest in the small UAV class with the unveiling of its solar-powered Silent Falcon at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference in Las Vegas.

Built in collaboration with Bye Aerospace, Silent Falcon is designed to be a man-portable small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) for long-duration intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. This in itself isn’t very new, but Silent Falcon is built of lightweight carbon composites and employs a solar electric propulsion system, which gives it an endurance of up to 14 hours in the sky. To give some idea of how much the solar power contributes, Silent Falcon can only fly up to six hours running on battery power at night.

The power for the craft comes from thin film photovoltaic panels built into the wings with lithium polymer batteries for storage. This allows Silent Falcon the endurance for ISR missions, yet it remains light enough at a maximum of 12.3 kilograms (27.1 lb) to be carried and hand launched, though rocket launching is also an option. This makes it suitable for both military and civilian applications.

Silent Falcon captures solar power from thin film panels mounted on the wings

In addition to its solar propulsion system, the 1.77 meter (5.8 ft) long Silent Falcon is modular with three sets of interchangeable wings giving it a span ranging from 2.1 meters (6.9 ft) to 5.2 meters (17 ft). It has a top speed of 112 km/h, (60 knots), an operational flying altitude from 100 feet (30.5 m) to 20,000 feet (6,096 m) and a range of 25 kilometers (15.5 mi). As a bonus, the electric motor makes Silent Falcon, for want of a better word, silent and, according to the makers, it can’t be heard beyond about 100 feet (30.5 m).

But what gives Silent Falcon a particular edge over other small UAVs is that it carries in its belly a motorized, gimbal-mounted, stowable electro-optical imaging system dubbed FalconVision. This includes a high-definition dual imager with night vision capability, a laser pointer, an onboard HD video processor and the whole thing is inertially stabilized. This allows it to send back stable, high-definition images, identify and track targets and perform geo-location and geo-tracking operations.

Currently, Silent Falcon is still in the preproduction phase, but the makers say that commercial production will begin early on 2013.

Source: Silent Falcon UAS Technologies via Denver Business Journal

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
5 Comments

Glad they are using solar range extender in a small UAV....

Nothing disruptive about it... it has all been done before...

I love seeing applications making it to market. (Everyone has to claim an edge over the competition in order to hype their offering, that's cool.)

MD
10th August, 2012 @ 12:05 am PDT

Put an atomic battery in it and it will have a duration of months or years.

Slowburn
10th August, 2012 @ 08:21 am PDT

Solar power also means minimal thermal signature.

theotherwill
10th August, 2012 @ 11:00 am PDT

This is a beautiful little beast. One wonders if more of the wing surface could be made up of solar panels and if there were a way to even capture light with the fuselage.

But the most striking thing for me is the propeller. It's six bladed and the blade are nearly flat with some subtle little curves.

It strikes me that there is some superior intelligence and knowledge involved here. Someone has tested and discovered that the propeller is more efficient that way. And I'll bet that it is quieter as well.

Interesting that this is not mentioned, perhaps a secret to the success.

Now this reminds me of the astonishingly brilliant Automotive suspension Engineer and his explorations in Wind Power where he hit the 59% efficiency. The more blades he added the more power he pulled. Almost 10% per pair.

Tis good to see that someone is thinking and it appears that the more blades there are, the more efficient the system is for going either way... putting power into the wind or extracting it from the wind.

No lemmings, these guys.

Bill

Island Architect
10th August, 2012 @ 11:17 am PDT

I doubt this product will ever make it to the market with the solar option... PV doesn't really offer much. They could strip the PV and put larger batteries to increase flight time if needed. It would cost less, be more reliable and work just as well regardless of time of day and weather.

Michael Mantion
10th August, 2012 @ 08:00 pm PDT
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