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Having trouble lifting solar plane off the drawing board

  1. Nov 3, 2009 #1
    Hi guys! I'm in the VIIth standard, and am building a solar powered RC plane. But however, I'll need help to figure out...

    • One solar panel of a calculator creates 1.53 volts of power under a dim CFL. If photovoltaic cells are influenced by the lumen count, how much can it generate under bright sunlight (5,000-10,000 lux)?
    • How much power is produced per lumen by a photovoltaic cell?
    • A final question: how many volts does two props require, and accordingly how many calculator solar cells am I to place on the wing if it were to run under even a CFL (most props require 9 volts of power each, so I guess 1.53 volts x 10 panels will give me the required power)?

    Thank you for helping.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2009 #2


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    You would be better off first making some back of the envelope calculations such as the estimated weight of your plane, the required thrust, and thus the power needed. Trying to engineer an airplane by first choosing the solar cells needed is a losing proposition.

    For the solar panels, you would be better off estimating them as about 15-20% efficient and use an input power of about 250-500 W/m^2 (a conservative estimate of solar irradiance, at noon on a clear day it may be as high as 1000 W/m^2). You will need a concept for the plane that is basically all wing, to make as much surface area as possible available for solar cells.

    I think you will probably find that:
    • The area of the solar panels will take up a larger amount of the wing surface than is available. Some iteration will need to take place to get weight down and surface area up.
    • The power available from the solar panels is not enough to power the motors required to make the plane fly. You'll need to minimize the amount of thrust your plane requires for takeoff and manuevering (this basically means minimizing weight and drag, and maximizing lift).

    You might do a little reading too:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_aircraft" [Broken]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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