This paper describes our work on a small, hand-launched, solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) suitable for low temperatures and high altitudes, which has the perpetual flight potential for conservation missions for rare animals in the plateau area in winter. Firstly, the conceptual design method of a small, solar-powered UAV based on energy balance is proposed, which is suitable for flight in high-altitude and low-temperature area. The solar irradiance model, which can reflect the geographical location and time, was used. Based on the low-temperature discharge test of the battery, a battery weight model considering the influence of low temperature on the battery performance was proposed. Secondly, this paper introduces the detailed design of solar UAV for plateau area, including layout design, structure design, load, and avionics. To increase the proportion of solar cells covered, the ailerons were removed and a rudder was used to control both roll and yaw. Then, the dynamics model of an aileron-free layout UAV was developed, and the differences in maneuverability and stability of aileron-free UAV in plateau and plain areas were analyzed. The control law and trajectory tracking control law were designed for the aileron-free UAV. Finally, the flight test was conducted in Qiangtang, Tibet, at an altitude of 4500 m, China’s first solar-powered UAV to take off and land above 4500 m on the plateau in winter (−30 °C). The test data showed the success of the scheme, validated the conceptual design method and the success of the control system for aileron-free UAV, and analyzed the feasibility of perpetual flight carrying different loads according to the flight energy consumption data.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited