This paper summarizes the design of a solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Two major achievements, aerodynamic performance design of a solar-powered aircraft and its solar power management system design, are presented. For aerodynamic performance design, the mass of the aircraft is parameterized as a function of two performance parameters: wing reference area and cruise speed. With the parameterization results, a fitness function that links the optimization problem and the genetic algorithm is established. The genetic algorithm searches for the optimal results for minimum energy operation. A solar-powered UAV is then built based on the optimization results. A solar power management system is designed to obtain electric energy from the solar system to support the required power for the aircraft propulsion system and on-board electronic systems. The system includes solar cell panels, maximum power point tracker, and power conversion. An auto-ranging non-inverting synchronous buck-boost dc-to-dc power converter is designed to perform the maximum power point tracking, power conversion, and battery charging functions. The proposed design methodologies for solar-powered UAV and solar power management system are verified through successful ground and flight test. This is the Taiwan’s first ever solar-powered UAV.
Journal of the Chinese Institute of Engineers 38(6), pp.701-713