Tanks, Drones and Rovers: How Solar is Gaining Ground in Robotics
The sun nourishes. Don’t believe me? Just ask the European Space Agency’s Philae lander.
“I’m feeling a bit tired, did you get all my data? I might take a nap,” the lander tweeted before slipping into a yet unbroken slumber. No, of course it didn’t actually tweet that; its scientifically-minded overlords did. But what ultimately killed the mission to survey a comet from its surface for the very first time? Lack of sunlight.
The lander was equipped with sophisticated solar panels powering its trek along the surface of “comet #67P,” recharging its batteries along the way. But when Philae found itself in shadow cut off from its much needed solar rays, it had no choice but to take a nap. Efforts to reestablish contact have been yet unfruitful—though, to be fair, that might soon change.
There’s a story here. As the world—or more importantly the John Doe’s thereof—recognize the wide-reaching, undeniable applications of unmanned vehicles, or drones as they’re more like to be called, an important question about the way we power these robots becomes apparent.
At this point drones are no longer contained to high-budget hobbyists and the U.S. Army. In addition to nearly every major military on the planet, drones are being accepted as a beneficial tool for companies ranging from film production to oil production.
In the (mostly) thriving oil and gas industry, aerial drones are being used to maintain security on pipelines, create topographical maps and more while their underwater cousins inspect subsea well installations and even help install certain pieces of equipment.
In film production, studios are realizing en masse the ludicrous cost savings of flying what’s essentially an expensive RC helicopter to capture aerial views as opposed to sending a (paid) human up in a (much more expensive) helicopter.
While petroleum byproducts still power the majority of unmanned vehicles used in industrial applications, that might not be the case for long as larger shares of the exploding market utilize solar panels and upgraded battery technology. The transition might be easier in the personal usage side of the matter where the majority of aerial drones are still being charged via plug in.
For some perspective on the smaller side of the matter, check out these videos of the world’s smallest solar-powered “tanks.”
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.