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Scientists Develop Lightweight Polymer Panels for On-demand Color Changing Drones

Published on 2020-09-11. Author : SpecialChem

TAGS:  Electrical & Electronics   

defence-drones-polymer-panels In conjunction with the Department of Defense, University of South Australia material scientists have developed a range of lightweight panels that can change color on demand, allowing drones to match their appearance to the background colors of the sky.

Remaining Undetected Using Polymer Panels

Given the huge importance of remaining undetected during ISR operations, the static color of drones can be a significant problem, but now, thanks to the newly developed polymer panels, the solution is at hand.

The polymers are what are known as electrochromic materials, meaning they change color in response to an electric field, and the exact colors can be tuned to specific voltages.

The newly developed panels have switching speeds in the range of seconds and offer color memory, which means they retain their switched color without a continuously applied voltage. They also operate in the range from -1.5 to +1.5 volts with the use of an AA battery to activate the change.

“Similar technology has been used in luxury cars, for diming mirrors, and on the windows of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner,” Dr Kamil Zuber says. “But those applications are slow, require high power consumption to switch, and the electric flow must be maintained to sustain the change state.”

Light-weight Panels for All Sizes of Drones

In addition to their chameleon-like characteristics, the panels are inexpensive, lightweight and durable, and can be either rigid or flexible, making them ideal for use on drones of all sizes and specifications.

“We have built a small-scale frame of a UAV and put our panels on it. We have demonstrated it against all sorts of different sky states and completed a range of validation testing showing how these materials can respond in actual use,” Dr Zuber says.

“We have five or six different materials, and each of the materials can produce two to three distinct different colors.”

Adding Automation and Self-awareness in the System

The technology is currently being refined to integrate self-awareness and autonomous adjustment into the system, so drones will be able to automatically change color in response to changes in the surrounding environment.

At this stage, researchers are working mainly on the panels and the hardware, but during the latest stage of the project they have developed prototype electronics for the controller, which is something that could test the state of the sky and then automatically adjust the voltage to the panel to tune it to the right color.

So, if the UAV passed in front of a cloud, it would turn pale, then when it moved back into blue sky, it would turn back to blue.

Source: University of South Australia
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