Ascent Solar Technologies Helps Create Sun-Powered Drone

5/21/14Follow @MichaelXBD

Ascent Solar Technologies is taking to the skies.

The Thornton, CO-based manufacturer of thin-film photovoltaic modules announced this week that an unmanned aerial vehicle—also commonly known as a drone or unmanned aircraft system—using Ascent’s photovoltaic film recently made its first successful test flights.

The drone was developed by Silent Falcon UAS Technologies, which is based in Albuquerque, NM. Bye Aerospace, a Denver-based company, also worked on the project.

The aircraft, named the Silent Falcon, is a solar and electric-powered system designed for commercial, public safety, and defense applications for the domestic and international markets. The Silent Falcon weighs 25 pounds and is able to stay airborne between six and 12 hours. The craft has lithium polymer batteries for energy storage to enable the aircraft to fly during the dark, according to the press release.

The system is expected to retail at around $250,000, according to media reports.

Ascent Solar’s (NASDAQ: ASTI) modules are integrated into the aircraft’s wings. Silent Falcon UAS Technologies already has begun producing the aircraft, which has an operating altitude of up to 20,000 feet and can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, according to the company.

Ascent Solar was founded in 2005 and manufactures copper-indium-gallium-selenium (CIGS) photovoltaic modules on flexible and lightweight plastic films. The company believes the modules could succeed in a number of markets, including transportation and defense.

But so far, Ascent Solar has concentrated on consumer products under its EnerPlex product line. Products include smartphone cases with solar panels, small portable solar panels that can be used while camping, and backpacks with lightweight panels integrated into them.

Last year, the company struck a deal with the Chinese city of Suqian to build a 100-megawatt factory in the city.

While that deal and the new partnership to build the Silent Falcon could boost Ascent Solar’s prospects, a recent SEC filing indicates the company has been losing money and is strapped for cash. As of March 31, the company had $1.6 million in cash and equivalents on hand. The filing said Ascent Solar expects to continue to report net losses and will try to raise additional capital this year.

Ascent Solar representatives could not be reached for comment.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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