Solar Powered Plane Soars Across the U.S.

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In the 117 years since the first solar cell was developed and the 110 years since the first powered flight, you’d have thought we would have combined the two technologies by now. When you’re trying to get from place to place aboard the only practical vehicle we have that can travel above the clouds, the sun would seem like the first place you’d look for power. At the Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California, the Solar Impulse company is at last taking that step.

Headed by engineer and fighter pilot Andre Borshberg and psychiatrist and balloonist Bertrand Piccard, and backed by Deutsche Bank, the Omega watch company and the Solvay Idustrial group, Solar Impulse has produced a plane that is equal parts elegant and improbable. The Solar Impulse HB-S1A has a wingspan of 208 ft. (63.4 m)—as large as that of an Airbus A340—yet it weighs only 3,500 lbs (1,600 kg), about the size of an average car. A lot of that weight is solar panels, which cover the wings and the smaller tail fins. The plane has reached an altitude of 30,300 ft. (9,235 m) and stayed aloft for a record 26 hrs., 10 mins and 19 secs. The developers don’t pretend there’s anything remotely practical about the HB-S1A yet. Like Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, it carries a crew of one. But like that long ago plane too, it’s meant as a proof of concept—and a teaser of what’s to come. “Our plane is not designed to carry a passenger, but to carry a message,” Piccard likes to say. Message received.

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6 comments
CharmaineLooi
CharmaineLooi

Surprised that Elon Musk is not involved in this ...

John
John

At 43 miles per hour, this plane reminded me of the fake commercials on "Prairie Home Companion" for "Overland Express" for when you absolutely, positively have to have your package there in 2 or 3 weeks!

MikeLand
MikeLand

One planned use is for the 19gigapixel observation drone that will fly over cities giving authorities high definition evidence needed to solve crimes of bank robbery, abductions, burglaries, drive by shootings, and the likes.  It is also going to be an aerial antenna array for a new sky based phone network.  You could call it Sky-Net.  It will be very cheap to send these into near space and they can fly around until they are needed back for maintenance.

TroyOwen
TroyOwen

Keep it up fellas! GREAT WORK!

I want one!

4stripes41
4stripes41 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Yes, the message is received Mr. Piccard. This is a concept whose time has come....past time, in fact. I cringe when I think of how much jet fuel I burned for the 32 years I flew for a major American carrier....and that was just me. What about the thousands of other flights all doing the same thing year in and year out. Still doing it. We must change. This is a way to make that change. IT CAN BE DONE AND MUST BE DONE. Hooray for these visionaries.

Good Luck Guys. Never let the naysayers change your course. They are the losers. You are the winners....for us all.