Scientists have tried to develop different technologies and methods to collect data for more than a decade now, and probably one of the most promising inventions was that of robotic birds. Although these are relatively small and light, a main concern associated with the little gadgets has always been the size and durability of the batteries, which power them.
In their attempt to overcome this limitation, a team from University of Maryland, led by Professors S.K. Gupta and Hugh Bruck, developed the so called Robo Raven micro air vehicle (MAV), which has tiny solar panels built in its wings. The material used under the solar cells is entirely new, so as the manufacturing process.
The scientists were only able to achieve sufficient charging of the device in a stationary position, however they are certain that soon they will manage to produce enough energy to power it in flight.
The relatively large surface area of the wings allowed the scientists to fit flexible solar cells, which supply power to the batteries on board. Gupta and team believe that they are not far off from shaping the technology to be able to conduct much longer independent flights.
In order to make the device fully functional, the team has to work on improving the efficiency of the cells and the energy density of the battery. However, they demonstrated that in its current development stage, the bird can fly using the combination of batteries and solar cells, and are convinced that reaching the next step will be much more simple.