BAE Designs Solar Cells To Power UAVs, Soldier Systems

FARNBOROUGH, England — BAE Sytems is developing a solar cell that could power a unmanned aerial vehicle just by charging its skin.

There’s no need for a traditional battery. The system that’s still in development charges a hard composite material that could act as the structure of an aircraft, a vehicle or even a piece of soldier’s gear.

Specifically, BAE Systems forsees the solar system to be used on a UAV or soldier system since weight is so crucial for both, said Darren Buckle, a manager for BAE Systems’ Advanced Technology Centre. A battery usually just adds unnecessary weight.

A solar system could provide power for a long endurance UAV if the system can absorb solar rays even when it’s not sunny. This is a challenge for BAE Systems engineers, Buckle said. It’s one of the priorities for its development program. The engineers want to make sure the solar cells can power the UAV even on the many foggy or cloudy days here in England.

The solar cell was just one of BAE Systems’ Advanced Material Technologies on display. Adaptiv Camouflage was also highlighted like it has been at other trade shows. BAE Systems has already shown it can cloak a tank with a material that uses metal pixels to alter the heat signature. It can make a tank look more like a car when viewed by its heat signature.

Thermoplastic spall liners were also seen here. BAE is not the first to make a spall liner and it’s a surprise more are not in military vehicles. The idea of the spall liner is to contain blast fragments if an IED or RPG reach the inside of a vehicle. The flak that pings around a cabin is what often kills or maims the passengers. A spall liner absorbs those fragments protecting the soldiers or Marines inside.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • orly?

    I think this is the big advancement in solar power that the world’s been waiting for.

  • Rob

    A downside is any solar system is exposed fully to shrapnel and debris. A battery backup should always be used.

  • HalP

    not to mention grunts


    • orly?

      Horribly misplaced dude.

  • Black Owl

    Look at the fat bloke ready to waste more of our tax money, just great.

    • orly?

      If it works, and works great, what’s the problem?

  • Chris

    Why not put vast solar arrays in space and beam the energy to earth via a system of microwave transmitters and receivers? You could beam it directly to a receiver worn by a grunt or a fighter and store it in batteries.

    • Dave M

      Wouldn’t you then be bombarding soldiers with concentrated microwave radiation?

  • Steve

    i want one of those plating my house