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Solar Powered Airplane Avionics

Avatar for Dave Llorens
Published on 02/11/2008 in
Updated 02/11/2008

solar airplane
I just found this email in my “pics” folder and I thought it was interesting:

Hi,

I represent Powerenz.com, they specialize in coming up with custom portable solar power units to meet almost any application. Here is a really cool solar power solution that they came up with for a pilot and his plane and some information to go with the pictures.

A commercial pilot who also owns a personal, single-engine, four-seater aircraft was looking for a better way to power his avionics system. The glass cockpit package in his airplane is a Garmin G1000 avionics, and is a 24-volt system. In order to power up the aircraft’s avionics system, either the battery must be turned on via a switch with the engine off, or the aircraft engine must be started and running. This either wastes battery power, or creates heat, loud noise and smoke, and burns and wastes high-cost aviation gas. On the front right side of the aircraft, there is an electrical DC power port that can be used to jump-start the airplane’s engine in case of battery failure by using a spare battery or to charge the airplane battery using AC power and a transformer. The pilot flies his airplane to several remote locations where there is no AC power. In addition, to carry a spare aircraft battery on flights occupies limited space, is heavy, and is expensive.

The pilot came to Powerenz and asked if they could design a portable power system that would allow him to power up the aircraft’s 24-volt avionics system with the engine off. He needed a unit that would not require him to use the aircraft battery, and could:

a. utilize solar energy for fuel instead of liquid fossil fuel
b. be stored and carried in one bag or case, by one person
c. be charged by AC power when available
d. provide durable, long-term independence from the power grid.

We assembled a portable solar panel-battery system that included the following components:
a. high-quality 12-volt, sealed lead acid battery
b. regulated 12-24-volt step-up DC-DC converter with a peak output power of 700 watts (29 amps)
c. two 42-watt foldable solar panels
d. 7-amp solar charge controller
e. proper fusing and wiring
f. 3-amp, automatic, 12-volt, AC-powered lead acid battery charger
g. proper connecting adapter that mates with the aircraft DC power port.

The step-up DC-DC converter was chosen over a second portable battery in order to save on weight. A second 12-volt battery could easily be substituted for the DC-DC converter, connected to the first battery in series, and provide 24 volts. This would be less expensive, though heavier than the DC-DC converter. The pilot chose the DC-DC converter option.

The entire system could be housed in either a heavy-duty tool-carrying case, a military tanker’s tool bag, or in a hard case such as those manufactured by Pelican, Hardigg, and HPRC.

The above portable power system can power up the aircraft avionics silently, without smoke, and without wasting aircraft fuel. The unit can be used for approximately 90 minutes before the portable battery required recharging. Ninety minutes of power was more than sufficient time to plan a flight, check weather, etc. During these preflight checks the aircraft engine does not have to be running, nor does the aircraft battery have to be used. To recharge the portable battery when low on charge would require 3-4 hours of good sunlight when using two 42-watt solar panels. The solar panels can be draped and secured over the aircraft wing, and left in place while the aircraft is parked on land until the next flight. When not in use, the portable system can be stored inside the aircraft until it is needed again.

To find out more information on Powerenz you can visit their website at Powerenz.com.

Thanks. It would be great if you could let me know if you decide to use any of the pictures. I also have the story in a case study form if you think your website visitors would be interested in that too.

Sincerely,

Jon Davis
Internet Marketing Analyst

Last modified: February 11, 2008

6 thoughts on “Solar Powered Airplane Avionics

  1. Avatar for Barry Barry says:

    The system described and shown above now comes with a more powerful 62.6 peak watt foldable solar panel, and costs $1700. Another system includes a pair of 12-volt, 18AH batteries configured in series to deliver 24 volts, instead of using a step-up DC converter. It’s heavier, stores twice as much power, includes the larger foldable solar panel, includes two charge controllers, and costs $1900. We can make these systems as small or as large as one requires, and use multiple solar panels for more power and faster charging.

  2. Avatar for tom tom says:

    how much did the system cost?

  3. Avatar for David Llorens David Llorens says:

    Clara, you should probably contact Powerenz.com for more info. Thanks for reading!

  4. Avatar for Clara Giese Clara Giese says:

    Hey John
    I have a question, I’m a Senior in my High School and I’m working on a physics project, which involves transvering an electric powered moteor into a solar powered motor. I would appreciate some more detailed information or tips or pics
    Thx
    Clara Giese

  5. Avatar for David Llorens David Llorens says:

    That’s pretty cool. Small aircraft batteries are known for being pretty small capacity (since planes are so weight-sensitive) so it’s a common complaint that the avionics can’t be run on the ground for very long without a danger of making it impossible to crank the engine afterwards. (engine cranking requires a ridiculous amount of energy). also people generally don’t like starting their engines without needing to because of the wear and tear on the cylinders from a cold-start. and it’s just plain dangerous to have the engine running on the ground for a long time while your head is down in the cockpit. plus, if the engine is on, you can’t get out of the pilot’s seat. so external power is a great solution for exactly what this guy said – doing preflight planning while you’re packing, etc.

    jer

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