After four years of development, Dutch drone manufacturer Avy has announced the first successful test flight of its new solar-powered fixed-wing aircraft. The aircraft, which is a mix of a drone and an airplane, takes off and lands vertically and can transition to forward flight, all fully autonomously. By doing so, the Amsterdam-based company’s aim is to enable beyond-visual-line-of-sight flying, with application in urgent medical transport, support emergency services and nature conservation initiatives, among many others. In the long term, Avy is looking to bring a transformation of sustainability to the transport and aviation sector.
The solar drone was built in close collaboration with Rotterdam’s Wattlab, a young clean-tech startup consisting of former World Solar Challenge champions from the Vattenfall Solar Team from Delft University of Technology. The drone is equipped with Wattlab’s custom solar foil, described as a lightweight ‘solar skin,’ which was wrapped around the aircraft’s outer layer of the fiberglass wings to reflect and absorb extra sunlight and generate extra energy while flying.
“By integrating solar cells into our wings, we make use of the cleanest energy available. The Avy drone has wings and is able to transport life-saving medicines by air in Europe and Africa, as well as support first aid services in Europe,” says Patrique Zaman, founder of Avy. “Our test flight in September with the solar prototype showed promising results and was a first step towards a longer flight time.”