Technology

 

Sunfleet Communication Networks incorporate a number of Sunlight’s core technologies including:

Platform Designs

To carry significant payload, solar UAVs have trended historically to large wingspans subject to stress and structural failure. Sunlight has developed inherently stable and robust Sunlink airframe designs scaled down for formation flight in clusters of UAVs called Sunfleets with distributed power and communications functionality. Sunfleet UAV formations essentially synthesize via software control the effective lift/drag of large wingspans and aperture area of large antenna arrays. Sunfleets can be optimally sized for performance, resilience, endurance, spatial frequency reuse, and manufacturability.

Flight Control System and Communication Software

Sunlight is developing software for optimal flight control, power management, and communications operations.

Power System

Sunlight has developed proprietary PV technology including stoichiometric single step deposition processes and thin-film multijunction cells to realize high efficiency and high specific power flex modules. These technologies are well suited for integration into the Sunlink series of UAV platforms.

Multi-Functional Skin

Sunlight is developing multi-functional skins which combine the functions of a PV power system, communications antenna and anti-icing. This functional integration not only reduces the weight but provides a robust structural skin which enhances the airframe design and construction. Additional functionalities are also  being introduced for mission specific applications.

 

Sunlight Photonics is leveraging the above core technologies to realize future Sunlink UAVs and Sunfleet Communication Networks.

 

Sunlink Test Platforms

Sunlink-5 and Sunlink-6 are designed for daylong missions at low to medium altitudes. They combine advanced airframe designs with a high performance PV power system capable of supporting 2.5 kg payloads with up to 100W payload power.

 

Sunlink-X

Sunlink-X (under development) is designed for long endurance missions at high altitudes. It combines advanced airframe design with a regenerative power system and will take advantage of the lower wind speed, reliably intense sunlight and avionics cooling in the stratospheric environment.

Sunlink-X is capable of supporting a 10kg payload and providing over 250W of continuous payload power. The PV and communications antennas are integrated in multi-functional skins. The platform is designed to operate autonomously or as part of a Sunfleet, supporting high performance, long endurance Communication Networks. The communication payloads will include radio frequency and Free Space Optics (FSO) subsystems supporting air-to-user (ATU), air-to-ground (ATG), air-to-air (ATA) and air-to-satellite (ATS) links.

 

Sunfleet Communication Networks

Sunfleet Communication Networks (under development) are comprised of interactive fleets of quasi-stationary, high-altitude, long-endurance solar-powered Sunlink-X UAVs operating in the stratosphere at altitudes between 50,000 and 70,000 ft. Sunfleets are specifically designed to support wireless communications payloads and to function as communication hubs providing services to the ground over large areas. Payload and power generation are distributed within the fleet and optimized for yearlong endurance missions. As envisioned, the Sunfleet will supplement or replace ground-based cellular wireless networks with more rapid deployment and lower cost.

Powered by entirely renewable energy sources, Sunfleet networks can reduce the carbon footprint of communications systems. Sunfleet systems will include antenna arrays which support current wireless networks and are also suited for the transition to 5G networks with massive MIMO architectures.

 

 

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