Long flexible printed circuit enables solar-powered drone flight

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Printed circuit supplier Trackwise has produced  a 26m (85ft)  long multilayer, flexible printed it claims is the  world’s longest ever produced, for distributing power and control signals across the wings of a solar-powered drone.

The flexible printed circuit (FPC) is one of more than 50 supplied by the UK-based company for the drone.

The entire interconnect system of the vehicle is made of FPCs, representing an estimated total systems weight saving of 60% compared  to the use of traditional wire harness, says Trackwise.

The weight-saving will enable the drone, which is being manufactured in the USA, to achieve higher payload and/or improved speed and range.

Trackwise’s FPCs are made using a patented, reel-to-reel manufacturing technique that enables the company to produce FPCs of potentially unlimited length.

The FPC is based on a polyimide substrate. Testing has shown that the planar structure of the circuit dissipates heat better than conventional wiring, enabling higher current carrying capacity for a given weight of copper conductor.

CEO of Trackwise, Philip Johnston, said, “There are many new applications emerging for long, lightweight FPCs but aerospace is a natural fit: weight savings, high reliability and cost effectiveness are critical.”

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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