We're geeks for all kinds of cool transportation options. And we're geeks for solar-powered stuff. So a solar-powered plane to go around the world is right up our alley.
The Solar Impulse is an experimental solar-powered airplane project under development. Ultimately, the team hopes to be able to fly around the world powered only by solar power.
Rather than maintaining a consistent level altitude for its flight, the Solar Impulse will capitalize on the daytime solar energy to climb to higher elevations, and then slowly descend at night, while relying on batteries to maintain forward propulsion. It will climb to nearly 10,000 meters (roughly 33,000 feet) during the day, and gradually soar back down to 3,000 meters (roughly 10,000 feet) altitude at night.
The wingspan for the Solar Impulse is slightly wider than that of the new Airbus A380 double-decker super jumbo jet (80 meters). But the solar Impulse will weigh just 2 tons, versus the 560 tons for the A380. (This is almost as wide a wingspan as was on the NASA Helios solar-electric test aircraft project a few years ago, but that was an unmanned vehicle.)
The project is presently at the prototype design phase of the project. If all goes according to schedule, the team expects to fly around the world some time in 2011.
written by jsbarrie, March 02, 2007
written by Grigorr, May 02, 2007
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