Solar Energy and the Aeronautics Industry

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The aeronautics industry is becoming increasingly dominant due to the increasing introduction of techniques that are based on field-produced technologies. From the provision of the Internet to security, there is a great need for feedback from the sector in the provision of primary technologies. However, the market is constantly confronted with major threats, including the over-dependence on non-renewable resources, which is followed by emissions. This paper tackles the issue by undertaking detailed research on the prospect of the full deployment of solar energy as a source of renewable energy in the aeronautical sector. Background information on the subject, the key limitation as well as the discussion of statistical results is put into context. Appreciating the need for efficiency in solar energy supply, the paper offers considerable proposition on improving the overall effectiveness by advocating for the use of trackers and optimization in design including the use of light weight craft body materials. The research findings and subsequent analysis supports the use of wide wings, at least 29.3m2, with tracker enabled solar panel mounts and light weight body for efficiently of up to 4.21%. Generally, the paper adopts an optimistic tone appreciating the efforts by scientist and engineers in demystifying the subject while acknowledging further research that needs to be considered in an attempt to better the overall experience of solar powers crafts.

Key words: Aeronautics Industry, Surveillance, Non-Renewable Energy, Renewable Energy and Solar Energy.

Table of content









General aim of Aeronautics8

Solar energy9

Advantages of solar energy in aeronautics10

Disadvantages of solar energy in aeronautics11

Design of artifact, model, test program, computer simulation11

Solar challenger11

General characteristics in aerodynamics11



Efficiency of solar cells in crafts13

Results and calculation14

Discussion of Results15


Suggestions for Further Work17

Tracking the position of the sun17

Reducing the weight of the craft17

Works cited19


List of Tables

Table 1: Tension of the design efficiency [7]13

Table 2: Material efficiency [4]14

Table 3 Comparison results [7]14

List of Figures

Figure 1 Aquila, Facebook drone project [7]10

Figure 2 : Small Craft [4]12

Figure 3: Max Efficiency (%) against Bandgap (eV) [7]13


The information provided in this report is designed to provide evidence of extensive research and guidance on possible implementation of the solar design in the aeronautics industry. The paper should not be used independently because of the varied approach in the derivation of sources, and the author does not take responsibility for any misconceptions that may arise especially from the key assumptions on the documents. The works cited are provided for information purposes only and they, by no means, represent an endorsement of any author. The readers should beware of the fact that material used as the citations may change.

Solar Energy and the Aeronautics Industry


Advancements in research in the field of science have considerably shifted focus on the use of computers and access to the Internet, interests that have contributed to the need to supply the Internet to remote place as well as increased geographical surveillance through drones and light aircraft [1]. Aeronautics is appreciate due to the emerging trends of efficient use of energy; a subject that has since raised the desire of scientific understanding of renewables. Solar energy is one of the best forms of inexhaustible energy owing to its reliability and abundance in some region on the earth [2].Consequently, some of the keys rated solution to the current speedy depletion of some of the oil reserves is the embrace of an alternative source of energy like solar.

In aeronautics, energy is largely considered as a key player in definite the efficient. Over the last decades, there has been a significant reliance on oil and gas as a main source of energy, but people are concerned about the global warming and the gradually increasing costs of accessing. These challenges have necessitated a deliberate push for a better and more reliable source of energy. Basically, aeronautics covers the scope of our subject and is defined as the branch of science that deals with the art of design, manufacturing and managing air flights and rockets [2]. Many researchers appreciate the significant of optimization of such a resource in the advancement of technology.

Solar energy, on the other hand, is a form of renewable energy that is accessed through solar panels that are mounted with photo sensitive equipment that converts the energy from the sun to electric signals that can then be accessible [4]. According to [2], the reliable and clean nature of the source of energy approaches relatively more superior compared to another form of energy.


This research study intends to plug the research gap and will enlarge the understanding of the need for renewable sources of energy, particularly the solar energy, in the aeronautic industry:

To appreciate the importance of solar energy is aeronautics.

To highlight the general requirements of accessing a reliable constantly tracking the sun during daytime.

To identify measures that can maximize the solar panel power generation for larger crafts.

To appreciate the importance of tracking system based on sensor sampler.

To appreciate the importance of clean energy is aeronautics


When dealing with research into renewables and particularly solar energy, several constraints apply to the project. The test and simulation equipment is always relatively expensive owing to the budget on developing the test prototypes, as well as any mounting or construction of designs. The experience generally applies to most the machinery and controls research [5]. Similarly, the desire to have the technology fit in a relatively limited space in design tends to create an overhang of the photovoltaic cells, allowing for minimal space usage.

On the same note, the entire system, the mounting of cells panels should work under minimal failure rates with relatively expensive basic upkeep and continuous backup. Their maintenance process might also mean replacing essential parts like coverings electronics that are fairly fragile.

Several environmental constraints emerge. The solar mount should be in a position to sustain wind gusts of up to 67 Mph. It should also show adequate levels of suitability in the tracking with a constant 40 Mph wind gust. Considerably, aeronautics requires that there should be no visible damage either arising from hail or snow balls and that the energy feed should be sustainable two feet of snow obstruction [6]. [3] appreciate that the results in drastic changes in temperatures within spans of 24 hours as such the mounts should have the capacity of operating within the temperature range of about -10º to 100º Fahrenheit.



Aeronautics is a science that is involved in the study of designs and machines that are flight capable [7]. The word Aeronautics is derived from an ancient Greek word ὰήρ āēr which means air and ναυτική nautikē which mean navigation. The science had developed and changed over centuries. But with time, the progress now encompasses the art, design, technology, and business. The changes, therefore, necessitated the introduction of better designs and new procedures of navigation, Besides, the rise in demand shifted drastically in the last quarter of the 20th century required the process of navigation regarding different rules set out [7]. As a result of the changes, different designs were introduced; some of them include planes or helicopters which were used for carrying passengers or cargo. Also, other designs were specifically for warfare and surveillance. [8] notes that the speed and accuracy of some of the designs are the reason behind the use of different machines, such as drones for surveillance and warfare.

General Aim of Aeronautics

According to [7], aeronautics serves to increase the efficiency of movement and transportation of different goods. Traveling through the air has proven to be more efficient and less costly compared to other means of transportation [9]. It is therefore important to note that planes and other modes of transport have also played an important role when it comes to increasing communication in different parts of the world. The ease of movement as outline is another aim of aeronautics [7].

Another major aim of aeronautics is not only to create a faster means of transportation but a secure one. Different designs have been proposed, in its turn, the safety and creativity are tested. The results determine the percentage of security and predictability and will only be implemented after it has exceeded a specified threshold. [9] outlines that for a design to be applied, the designs predictability should be above 96%.

Other aims of aeronautics as a science is to come up with designs and machines that will offer affordable and reliable means of transportation. On the other hand, the science is also focused on implementing technologies that will facilitate the movement in the air, surveillance and all other related activities.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is the radiant heat from the sun which is harnessed using different evolving technologies [10]. According to [10], some of the technologies use the passive solar or the active solar. The technology selected is dependent on how the energy is captured and distributed. The solar [9] is one of the best sources of renewable energy. It has a high potential for conversion of solar energy to electric power. The conversion is through the photoelectric (PV) effect. The most recent research conducted by European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) identified that the PV conversion equipment increases roughly 1GW in 2001 to about 23 GW in the year 2009.

According to the analysis done on the National Solar Database (SEIA), different aeronautical advances have improved the use of solar energy by planes by 20% [8]. There are several merits of using solar energy. According to [9], some of these gains are attributed to the fact that the energy source is free, available in most parts of the world and is environmentally friendly. Some of the advantages include:

Solar power saves money as putting PV panel is a one time expense.

The use of solar power helps reduce the rate of global warming as it is environmentally friendly.

It acts as a source of reliable energy and therefore provides energy security.

Use of solar energy provides energy independence.

Advantages of Solar Energy in Aeronautics

As stated earlier, most companies are now adopting solar energy in planes and drones. One of the enterprises that have recently utilized this technology includes Facebook. Its mission of connecting the world has made the company implement the use of drones to beam down the Internet. These drones developed, known as Aquila, use solar energy which will sustain the machine for three months recharging during the day. The use of solar energy by Facebook, therefore, outlines that there are several advantages of using solar as a source of energy on flying objects.

Figure 1 Aquila, Facebook drone project [7]

There are several advantages and some of these include [10];

The energy is reliable.

Requires less technology to convert it to electric energy

Acts as a source of clean energy thus reducing cases of air pollution

Less noise and is not prone to wear and tear.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy in Aeronautics

Even though the solar energy offer many advantages, it also has several demerits as far as generation of electric energy and utilization is concerned. [7] outlines that some of the research is being done with the aim of reducing the problems for using the PV panel as a source of electric energy. Some of the disadvantages of general use and aeronautical use of solar energy include:

The energy depends on hours of exposure to solar energy and therefore different in various parts of the world.

Solar energy is available only one period of a day, approximately 12 hours for most parts of the world.

The energy needs to be stored and used when there is no solar, thus requires an additional technology.

Some machines require a lot of electric energy that cannot be fulfilled by only using the PV panels.

Design of artifact, model, test program, computer simulation

The design and simulation and subsequent analysis of the implementations are based on the conventional solar challenger.

Solar challenger

General Characteristics in Aerodynamics

A typical design model that accommodates the solar panel mount requires a wing span of 14 m with comparatively elevated wings that are tilted with excellent access to direct sunlight at 90 degrees. The design is fashioned with variable pitch propellers that are typically controlled.

Figure 2: Small Craft [4]


The weight is roughly 90 Kg with a large extension of the wing spans with the intention of attaining the 21.88 m2 area for the solar mount. At lower velocities, the propellers are designed to have at least 85% efficiency in energy consumption. Form the study, the design requires that the most efficient locations of the solar cells primarily to avoid shadows involves the use of elevated wings [11]. The author acknowledges the significantly extended limitation of shadows on solar cells insisting the use of techniques that limit the chances of obstruction of sunlight [11].

The use of horizontal stabilizers is also considered in the design. According to [1], horizontal stabilizers in an elevated position eliminate the possibility of depriving the craft the primary energy input into the solar systems. The use of compatible cells in the horizontal mounts acts as an emergency energy source in case of excessive unavoidable significant cell shadowing. The vertical stabilizer that fits behind the flat panels is also fit with tension wires to provide mechanical support for the structures.

Efficiency of Solar Cells in Crafts

Table 1: Tension of the design efficiency [7]



% of efficiency


Si (waters)



Commercial access

Si (thin films)



Experimental access




Experimental access




Advanced research




Experimental access




Experimental access




Experimental access

The cost of the cells rises depending on the base material as well as the size of the panel. The overall efficiency also relies on the band Gap (EV) as graphically appreciated below.

Figure 3: Max Efficiency (%) against Bandgap (eV) [7]

The intensity of light influences the performance of the mounts. Based on equation

E = hj


E = energy emission per cell on the craft mount

h = planks constant (6.63 x 10-34 )

j = Frequency of the Photons

Table 2: Material efficiency [4]


Eo (eV)







Results and calculation

According to [4], the use of tracker on drones has comparatively increased the efficiency of the craft design and sustainability of ground. The tabulation below provides a comparative view of the use of static panel fix and the use of trackers in design on the horizontal wings in crafts.

Tabulation of comparative results of trackers and static amounts of panels in the aeronautic industry.

Table 3: Comparison results [7]

Graph 1: Tracker comparison

Discussion of results

From the statistical derivation appreciated above, it is clear that the use of a flexible amount of panels on large wings of the crafts can aid a successful aerodynamics. In most solar cells, there is an apparent variation in the amount of efficiency depending on the nature of design [12]. According to [1], the wing span is not enough in design. From the research results in table 4 above, there is an apparent disparity between ordinary mounts and tracker solar installation. In aerodynamics, the use of trackers can be best implemented on the vertical solar cells on the wings of the crafts.

Similarly, Table 2 shows dominance of aluminium is the design of support for the aircraft body. This substance is largely utilized to limit the body with of aerodromes to increase the overall efficiency of the systems [12]. The 4.21 rating is therefore much recommended in improving the performance of the systems. Si wafers are also evidently much superior relative to Si thin films. Table 1 represents a maximum efficiency of 13% with a commercial access. The rating reflects its ease of access in large quantities and its admirable performance on crafts.


The efficiency of the design of supported solar crafts is on the rise because of its energy efficiency and the possibility of prolonged stay off the ground without the necessity of refuelling. [2] also attributes the rise in the use of renewable energy on the increased need to have a clean form of energy. In most cases, solar energy is regarded as the most reliable form of energy, therefore, prompting extensive research on the subject.

Statistical analysis and scientific support material have advocated for further reach into the use of solar energy in the aeronautics industry. Several materials have been tested in an attempt to derive the best-suited body material for such craft and in most findings, Aluminium body frames have been found to be superior. The wings are also best suited as extensive and elevated guarantee the solar panels’ efficiency that are mounted on the surface. Although research into the incorporation of solar energy in the aeronautic industry is still active, there are promising leads that give assurance of possibility of an ultimate breakthrough.

Suggestions for further work

Tracking the Position of the Sun

Most of the crafts that use PV panels that convert solar energy to electric energy are in motion. The movement of this craft is disadvantageous because the planes can be obstructed direct from exposure to the sun, therefore, reducing the energy output. To solve this problem, I would suggest that further research should be done whose aim it to automate the detection of an obstruction and in turn respond accordingly.

The automated system should contain sensors that detect the position of the strongest wave that would result in the generation of maximum electric energy, [9] outlines that the technology is available through the use of light sensors. To make the sensors relevant on the crafts, a way of the changed angle of the PV panel should be introduced and ensure that there is constant exposure of most parts and as a result increase the electric energy output.

Reducing the Weight of the Craft

Staying afloat requires energy. According to [7], lessening the burden of the aircraft will significantly reduce the energy needs staying afloat. It is therefore important to consider the use of lighter material while developing these crafts. Material such as, aluminium should be encouraged as they are strong and at the same time light in weight.

Reducing the Energy Consumption within the Craft.

Within a craft, there are diverse types of electronic gadgets that perform different functions. Some of the functions include the determination of direction, receiving and sending of signals and the thrust for moving in a particular direction. [8] provides that this equipment sometimes need more electric power compared to what the PV planes can generate. The need for more energy is the sole reason why other sources of energy are considered for these crafts. Therefore, I would suggest that there should be more research on what gadgets can share functions, in turn, reducing the number of running gadgets and also use electronic equipment that saves energy.

Works Cited

[1] G P Sutton and O Biblarz, Rocket Propulsion Elements, John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

[2] E F. Camacho, et al. ‘Control of renewable energy and smart grids’ The Impact of Control Technology, Control Systems Society, pp. 69-88,2016.

[3] C E Dole, et al. Flight, Theory and Aerodynamics: A Practical Guide for Operational Safety, John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

[4] V Quaschning, Understanding Renewable Energy Systems, Routledge, 2016.

[5] J Heejin, and H Hwang. ‘Surrogate Aerodynamic Model for Initial Sizing of Solar High-Altitude Long-Endurance UAV’ Journal of Aerospace Engineering 30.6, 2017.

[6] D Eryanto, D Raditya and J Prestiliano. ‘Design of learning media for the solar system lesson using animation and virtual reality’ Open Science Journal 2.1, 2017.

[7] R-D Cécora, et al. ‘Differential Reynolds-stress modeling for aeronautics’ AIAA Journal, 2015.

[8] K Nonami, ‘Prospect and recent research & development for civil use autonomous unmanned aircraft as UAV and MAV’ Journal of System Design and Dynamics, pp. 120-1281.2, 2007.

[9] R Giulio, et al. ‘HELIPLAT: Design, aerodynamic, structural analysis of long-endurance solar-powered stratospheric platform’ Journal of Aircraft 41.6, pp. 1505-1520, 2004.

[10] M A Green, et al. ‘Solar cell efficiency tables (Version 45)’ Progress in photovoltaics: Research and applications 23.1, pp. 1-9, 2015.

[11] J-K Shiau, et al. ‘Optimal sizing and cruise speed determination for a solar-powered airplane’ Journal of Aircraft, 47.2, p. 622, 2010.

[12] L J Ippolito and L J Ippolito Jr. Satellite Communications Systems Engineering: Atmospheric Effects, Satellite Link Design, and System Performance, John Wiley & Sons, 2017.


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