I'm currently trying to decide what kind of drone I create for my Phd and I want to ask about solar-powered-drones.

I want to use a raspberry pi to create a drone controlled remotely using lte, and my question is if it's possible to sustain the drone by using solar power energy obtained by a cell like this one and having some batteries for night. Take into account that this would be a small drone, so the weight of the solar cells must be reduced.

Would a drone fly without using the batteries in a great day conditions?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does this count? youtu.be/1OGrDvInUAY?si=TGyNyf55C2oLvJj8 $\endgroup$
    – vektor
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I appreciate that video, but I mean a more "common" drone, like a fpv of medium size. You know, it's a medium size drone (half meter or something), so I mean a small solar cell or a small group of them that could potenciate 4 servos. $\endgroup$
    – gitblanc_
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ a small drone may consume 100 W, and a 100W solar panel cannot be fitted on a small drone. But I think we are not too far to think about it $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ i dont think ull be able to manufacture a drone mainly powered by servos with solar , the solar gain , servo draw just wont match up , like discussed in the video above you need a lot of drag so it stays airborner $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ You'll need to avoid quadrotor types, and focus on winged or lighter than air drones in order to reduce the current required for lift - allowing your panels to be used solely for propulsion and instrumentation. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jan 12 at 16:12

2 Answers 2


I don't think anyone has made a multi-rotor fly on solar power yet. Exploring the math for balancing available power against weight, and optimising the motors and rotors for a sufficiently high thrust to weight would make an interesting project on its own. I suspect you'd end up with something like the Mars Ingenuity helicopter, that sits in the sun charging its batteries most of the day to prepare for a short flight. OTOH there's probably some range of sizes where it could fly without a battery, if you live somewhere sufficiently sunny.

Many FPV drones are very inefficient and only fly for a few minutes. If we pick a more efficient photography drone like the DJI Mavic, which weighs 900g and uses a 60Wh battery to fly for a maximum of 30 minutes we can calculate the power required to be about 120W. The battery weighs 300g, so if you can replace it with a 120W PV panel of similar weight, it should fly (in ideal conditions).

Fixed wing solar flight has been demonstrated by hobbyists but it's not easy. There are numerous projects on YouTube. However on a nice sunny day it's possible to keep a glider flying indefinitely purely by seeking out rising air, so some solar project just reduce the amount of thermal assistance required to maintain flight.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ do you know where to find or even if it exists a 120W solar panel? $\endgroup$
    – gitblanc_
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 19:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't, I've not been involved with a solar project, just watched a few! I think you're right to look at individual cells and build your own panel. I couldn't see a weight for the cells you linked, but that (and the structure) will be critical. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 9:18

Solar-powered drones are typically made of lightweight materials and can be fitted with a variety of sensors and cameras. They are used in a wide range of applications, including environmental monitoring, crisis management, climate research, border patrol, infrastructure monitoring, and surveillance. For instance, the Zephyr S, a solar-powered drone built by Airbus, set a record by remaining aloft for two full calendar months.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.