Solar drone could spy on you for nine hours straight

A company has built a prototype solar-powered drone, the Puma AE, that is capable of flying non-stop for more than nine hours.

aerovironment-nasa-heliosThat’s an entire working day of airborne snooping, which is what you would assume a drone built by defense contractor AeroVironment would be tasked with (that, or actual military strikes), but it’s not even close to the longest drone flight recorded. That record belongs to England’s QinetiQ, whose Zephyr drone remained aloft for more than two weeks.

AeroVironment (who also teamed up with NASA on the Helios, above) collaborated with a startup called Alta Devices, which claims to build the world’s thinnest and lightest solar cells. That makes Alta’s cells a nice fit for something like a drone, where weight is a key design consideration. Alta’s cells are some of the most efficient flexible cells around and they also boast an efficiency of around 24%.

The Puma AE (pics in the gallery above) drone’s built-in batteries can keep it aloft for just three hours on their own, so the cells are clearly worth the added bulk. Sure, such a drone would also work well at, say, an outdoor music festival where it could deliver beer to revelers all day long.

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