Look, Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird! It’s a Superhero! No, It’s a Solar Powered Airplane!

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Very few people ever considered the possibility of a plane being completely reliant on solar energy. Such a plane would remove the need for tons of oil, and it would heavily reduce the amount of air pollution caused by planes. Solar Impulse recently made a plane that only used solar panels. It doesn’t have any oil, and it flies surprisingly well. Two pilots recently tested the plane to see how reliable it was, and it was capable of making a trip that lasted 4,000 miles.

The first thing that most people think about with Solar Impulse’s plane is the battery. They wonder how efficient the solar cells are, and if they can really carry an airplane. The plane was capable of flying all day without any problem.

The team responsible for taking care of the plane would always check the battery when it landed, and it was full most of the time after an day-long trip. This means that the plane can easily travel during the day and night, but Solar Impulse decided against this because the test was only to see how reliable the plane would be over an extended flight. They also didn’t want the plane to experience any thermal problems during a night flight that could disrupt the technology.

At the same time, Solar Impulse knows that their plane can make a full night’s trip. They tested this in 2010 by flying a prototype for 26 hours without any problems.

The solar airplane has thousands of solar panels located throughout its body, but the majority of them can be found on the wings. These are highly efficient panels that are made to really trap and hold solar energy. This is what allows the batteries to be charged so quickly, and they provide more than enough energy for the plane to run for an extended amount of time.

Both the pilots and Solar Impulse state this flight is not to show that the plane can hold passengers, and it is not meant to show that a solar-powered plane is fast or slow. The primary purpose of this flight was to show people that green energy is capable of powering advanced technology, and it is to promote the necessity of removing fossil fuels from daily life.

This is Solar Impulse’s second plane, and they learned a lot from their prototype made in 2010. This plane, called the HB-SIB, was made to fit two pilots at once. There is enough room for both pilots to completely recline, and the plane was also made to better withstand a larger payload.

The circuitry was also moved and isolated so that the HB-SIB could fly in the rain without shorting out. Redundant systems were also built into the solar plane to ensure that the chances of a crash were greatly minimized.

Solar Impulse did this to show two things. It made the solar plane to show the world that innovation does not need to be limited because people must move beyond fossil fuels. This was also done to show the world that solar energy is reliable, and that it can be used on modern technology.

A solar plane seems almost ridiculous, but Solar Impulse has proven that a plane can be made that doesn’t need any fuel. If this innovation is possible, then what else can engineers do if they restrict themselves solely to solar energy? If this is any indication, then they can do a lot without needing to waste fossil fuels.

Article by Karl Stockton for the team at squaredeal.com. Contact them to view their Travelocity Promo Codes.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

  • euroflycars

    “Very few people ever considered the possibility of a plane being completely reliant on solar energy.”

    “Solar Impulse has proven that a plane can be made that doesn’t need any fuel”.

    The author seems completely mesmerized by the political philosophy behind Solar Impulse, which goes: “As you can see, Ladies and Gentlemen, a solar-only powered plane needs gigantic wings — so forget about the very idea of your own personal solar aircraft!”. Alas, Switzerland, home of Solar Impulse, along with North Korea, are the two only countries in the world maintaining a legal ban on ultra-light aircraft…

    To show you how far away from reality the author’s assertions are, here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia page “Gossamer Albatross”:

    “Designed by Paul MacCready, the Solar Challenger had a wingspan of 14.3 meters (47 ft) (!!!!!!!) and a mass of 90 kilograms (198 pounds). Its wings were covered with 16,128 photovoltaic cells, with a total output power of 2,600 watts, about enough to drive a pair of hair dryers. The Solar Challenger was capable of reaching an altitude of 12,000 feet (3,700 m). On July 7, 1981 the aircraft, piloted by Steve Ptacek, accomplished the 262 kilometer (163 mile) flight from Paris to Manston in the UK.

    That was more than thirty years ago! Note that the plane had no batteries, took off on pure direct solar energy, climbed to 3000 meters and landed 5 hours later — and, BTW, with today’s materials technology this plane could do loops and fly safely at 200 miles an hour…

    But the author is not to blame: Bertrand Piccard himself pretended that he was going to build the first man-carrying solar aircraft ever…