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SolarCopter students soar to new heights with TV appearance

Monday 8 April 2013

A group of QM’s engineering Masters students have recently debuted their helicopter-prototype on the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet programme. The prototype, called the SolarCopter, is a solar powered remote controlled helicopter-prototype which can be used for multipurpose applications such as surveillance, search and rescue, cheaper transportation, and even traffic management.

The team, made up of students from several areas of engineering – such as aerospace, mechanical, electrical and sustainable engineering – include Jibran Ahmed, Shakir Ahmed, Kazimierz Wojewoda, Irmantas Burba, Pourshid Jan Fani, Aly Abidali and George Kowfie.

‘The SolarCopter was inspired from the love of flight, and the urge to do something different for the aviation industry,” said the students. “When the realization came that there were no solar powered helicopters in existence, it seemed like a great engineering challenge to take on.’

The very first SolarCopter prototype was designed to fly solely from energy generated from a photovoltaic, or solar, panel, but with the assistance of a reserve battery that was also charged by the copter’s panel. “The reserve battery was used whenever the panel could not provide the required power to keep the helicopter in the air, such as cloudy weather,” said the students.

Since then, the team have been able to further enhance the model so it can fly, take off and hover without the need of the reserve battery. “With the current design it will fly for as long as the sun shines in theory and we have tested this experimentally for a substantial amount of time,” the students explained. “There is still a lot of work to do, but we are pleased to say that we have proved that it works.”

To date, the process has been a lengthy one, as most of the SolarCopter parts are handmade and the students have even designed their own Sun simulator for testing. The team has conducted extensive experimental tests in order to maximize its potential and have modeled many different aspects of the design using various engineering software to develop their understanding and the prototype further.

The students are currently working hard on refining their design with the hope of further enhancing the prototype so they can add cameras, GPS systems, and other useful components that could aid it in its various applications.

The SolarCopter has now caught the attention of the media and featured on The Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet programme on Thursday 28 March. Keep up to date with the teams’ progress on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SolarCopter.

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