The Next Niche Market for Solar? Drones—Yes, Drones

Very high efficiency, rugged solar panels could find their first markets outside the green demographics.

The idea that solar is a nice, soft technology that only liberals could love reaches back into the 1970s. It was there that the counterculture adopted solar energy as an alternative to the fossil fuels that dominated (and still dominate) the American energy mix. Solar became a symbol that Reaganites were happy to pillory in the 1980s, and that political divide continued into this century.


But in the most recent green tech wave, solar politics have become a lot more complicated. While solar's biggest proponents traditionally hailed from blue California, red Arizona has been installing photovolatics at a tremendous pace, especially for its population size.

But it's not just geography that's changing the solar political picture. Solar power is increasingly useful to the Department of Defense. And that's a niche market that Alta Devices, which makes an ultra-efficient, ruggedized solar cell is hoping to make money. 

When we visited Alta Devices for the video you see above, they'd recently incorporated their solar technology into a drone wing. While they're currently working on short-flight duration drones, their technology could potentially extend the flying time of military unmanned aerial vehicles like Predators from a couple of days to much longer. While Alta is still in the early days of developing solar that can be incorporated right into these flying machines, it's fascinating to think of a solar company that has to sell to military contractors, not eco-conscious homeowners. 

Here you see Joe Foster, VP of Business Development and a lifelong Silicon Valley resident, discuss how the company's technology and business work.
Presented by

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Technology

Just In