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At the McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, the Plans and Programs (XPX) innovation team has constructed a portable, solar-powered communications system. They collaborated with Wichita State University GoCreate lab to complete the project.

“It’s a mobile communication system that is set up to communicate with pilots,” says Senior Airman Aaron Walls, 22nd Air Refueling Wing XPX innovation team member. “It is completely self-sustainable, powered by solar power, and the solar panel can extend the [battery life] out almost indefinitely.”

It took more than 400 hours for the three-man team to finish the job. Important components include the solar panels, antenna, casing, a Harris 117F radio system, DC-AC inverter, and a battery used in solar-based homes (12 volt, 150 amp)—all of which work together for a radio range of 240 mi.

(Image Source: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jenna K. Caldwell)

“We also have four functional gauges,” says Walls. “Gauge one is our solar production, which tells us how much solar energy we are getting, gauge two determines if we are receiving more energy than we are using, gauge three tells us our energy deficit and the fourth gauge tells us how much energy in total we are using. This makes it really simple for anyone using it.”

Due to its self-sustainability and solar capabilities, among others, the device is projected to save the USAF $12,000.

“You can find similar products for around $10,000, but it will not be solar or self-sustaining. We created this kit for less than a one-fifth of that, with three times the features,” says Walls.

Below you can see an image of Walls holding up the radio antenna.

(Image Source: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jenna K. Caldwell)
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