Australian company Praxis Aeronautics has received a contract from the government of South Australia to study ways to integrate solar panels into the structure of composite elements of aircraft. The results of the project will be primarily used in the production of unmanned aerial vehicles. In modern unmanned vehicles, where the solar energy is used for power supply, a special thin solar film is used. It is simply glued over the fuselage or wing of the device. Such a film has a relatively small efficiency and is quite expensive.
According to Praxis Aeronautics, integrating solar panels into the composite material will protect them from damage and will give developers greater freedom in choosing the locations. Research, which currently deals with the company, imply the possibility of incorporating standard solar panels into the composite.
Praxis Aeronautics has already proposed one of the ways to integrate solar panels and tested it on a small drones. This method involves laying out solar panels over carbon fiber or coal, and then pouring a transparent binder in a special bag and baking in an autoclave.
According to the company, thanks to this method the surface of this or that element of the UAV design turns out to be smooth. At the same time, a transparent binder practically does not reduce the efficiency of solar panels and protects them from damage.
The cost of this method of introducing solar panels is 792 USD per sq m. For comparison, the cost of applying a solar film is on average 27,700 USD per sq m. Now Australians are going to study the influence of such placement of panels on the overall strength of composite elements.
Today, many companies are studying the possibility of integrating various elements into the structure of composite parts. In mid-July this year it became known that the development of the “nervous system” for aircraft, including combat ones, was completed in Russia. It will allow real-time monitoring of the state of the aircraft structure.
A new non-destructive testing system consists of a number of optical fibers introduced into the structure of the composite part at the production stage. This system allows accurately locate the damage, as well as evaluate the remaining life of composite structural elements.
The system obtained by the design of the damages is determined by the change in the speed of passage of the optical fibers by the laser beam. In flight, the system is able to record all diagnostic data, which ground-based technicians can then read and analyze. The new system was already interested in Tupolev, Sukhoi, Irkut, the Moscow Helicopter Plant and Kamov.
Meanwhile, in February last year, the German Aerospace Center tested an ultrasound system for diagnosing the state of composite elements. In the tests, a fuselage section with a doorway made of composite materials was used. A total of 584 sensors were integrated into the structure of the section, controlling the state of the part.