Robotic RV solar panel auto-tracks the Sun to double base camp power

The Roboteos Heliotrope combines the advantages of a deployable ground solar panel system and a roof-mounted RV panel setup. Roboteos – View 10 Images

With the all-electric RV market slowly ramping up, and an ever-growing amount of electrical equipment and gadgetry to power at camp, RVs are relying on bigger and bigger battery banks, some carrying as much battery capacity as a Tesla. Compound that with the popularity of off-road adventure and boondocking, and you have serious demand for mightier off-grid charging capability.

Solar remains a popular, straightforward way of charging at camp without running a loud, emissions-spewing generator engine, but solar charging can be slow and time-consuming, and vehicles are limited to how much square footage of panels they can fit.

Roboteos has designed the Heliotrope 1.0 to deliver a smarter form of charging that boosts efficiency enough to get more power out of a smaller array. It essentially combines the advantages of the deployable standalone system and the permanently mounted roof panel system.

A convenient all-in-one package, the Heliotrope mounts atop a van or RV roof as a slim box that rises just 6 inches (15 cm) above the surface of the roof. The design uses a combination of GPS and sensor-packed internal measurement unit (IMU) to track the position of the Sun in relation to the vehicle. The owner need only switch the system on via the wireless touchscreen controller and it will automatically deploy at sunrise, reposition for the best sun exposure throughout the day, and fold back away into packed form after sunset.

The Heliotrope 1.0 gives users more sun per second.  Roboteos

To more accurately track the Sun, the Heliotrope uses a dual-axis design that provides 360 degrees of rotational movement using a three actuated struts. The driver can park the camper in any direction, and the Helitrope automatically readjusts the panel to the best position.

The result of all that actuated motion, Roboteos says, is that the 400 watts of integrated panels are able to deliver up to 2.5 times the energy of a stationary rooftop panel layout, pulling in power akin to a 1,000-W array. That figure depends upon the time of year and weather conditions, though, and Roboteos estimates a much less impressive 1.3 times the power during Summer months (520-watt equivalent from the 400-W panel array).

We’ve seen a number of dual-axis solar trackers for stationary charging, but Roboteos claims to offer the first one specifically designed for RVs and camper vans. It certainly seems like a handy way of getting more charging out of one’s time under the Sun, particularly valuable to those living or traveling off-grid for extended periods of time.

The Heliotrope is designed hold up to 25-mph (40-km/h) winds when deployed, and features automatic retraction in higher winds. It also stows away automatically when the vehicle starts moving, turning into slim box form with the panels facing directly upward.

The Roboteos Heliotrope 1.0 is up for preorder now, with deliveries planned to begin in July.  Roboteos

Because it’s designed specifically for adventure van life, the Heliotrope is built to hold up to rattling, dusty trails, 80-mph (129-km/h) winds (when closed), storms and more. The 150-lb (68-kg) build features automotive-grade components, stainless steel hardware and waterproofed electronics. Roboteos backs it with a three-year warranty on the mechanical and electrical components and a 10-year warranty on the solar panels.

The Heliotrope 1.0 is available for preorder now at a discounted early bird price of US$5,440, and Roboteos expects to begin deliveries in July. The company has started showing the kit at adventure van and overland shows, and will be attending Overland Expo West this weekend. We’ll be pushing off on a road trip to the show in just a few moments, and will stop by Roboteos’ booth to get a closer look at the Heliotrope 1.0 and the company’s other solar products.

Source: Roboteos  View gallery – 10 images


Leave a Reply