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A solar-electric UAV will support commercial and security requirements. Bye Aerospace announced an important engineering, development and production collaboration with SolAero Technologies Corp. to put SolAero’s solar cell technology on Bye’s solar-electric unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), called “StratoAirNet.”

According to the press release on Bye’s site, the StratoAirNet family of UAVs is intended to provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to support commercial and government security requirements. The initial medium-altitude StratoAirNet 15 proof of concept prototype is nearing completion and undergoing final assembly.

The Solar-Electric UAV is a highly efficient aircraft platform with reasonable payload and extreme endurance focused on medium and high altitude missions. It utilizes light-weight composite structure, clean aerodynamics, and solar electric propulsion systems, according to Bye Aeorspace’s website. The proof-of-concept aircraft is pilot-optional allowing for immediate payload integration while the flight test program matures.

The solar cell preliminary design review was recently completed with SolAero engineers. Preliminary flight tests were then conducted on a smaller scale test wing. Following measurements and fit checks, whole wing solar cell tests will commence on the 15 meter wing span UAV prototype.

Since 2001, SolAero products have powered 170 successful space missions with zero failures. This solar cell technology achieves the highest commercially available performance level, offering a density exceeding 350 watts per square meter under standard conditions, increasing further under high-altitude, low-temperature conditions.

George Bye, CEO of Bye Aerospace: “SolAero is one of the world’s leading providers of advanced space solar power solutions. The efficiencies of their solar cells will make the benefits of StratoAirNet even more compelling, allowing the airplane to fly at higher altitudes with almost unlimited flight endurance. We appreciate SolAero’s collaboration with our team and look forward to working together to demonstrate a remarkable pseudo-satellite aircraft capability that many have said is unachievable.”

Brad Clevenger, CEO of SolAero Technologies, said “the combination of our heritage high-efficiency solar cell technology and integration expertise with the wide range of capabilities of the StratoAirNet UAV family will help to usher in a new era of middle and high altitude commercial and defense applications.”

Bye added that potential commercial mission applications for the solar UAV include communications relay, internet, mapping, search and rescue, firefighting command and control, anti-poaching monitoring, damage assessment, severe weather tracking, agriculture monitoring (“precision ag”), mineral source surveying, spill detection and infrastructure quality assessment.