100-Percent Solar Plane Flies High on Advanced Materials
The world's first 100-percent solar-powered fixed-wing airplane, the Solar Impulse HI-SIA, takes off from California's Moffett Field on the first leg of its cross-country flight this summer. (Source: Solar Impulse)
@Ann, thanks for informative post. Cost of flight reaching all time highs due to a various factors like fossil fuels costs, cuts in government subsidies. There is a need for alternatives energy resource. Solar energy is potential solutions to cut costs.
I really like this idea of a solar plane, thanks for this coverage, Ann. I am impressed at how the use of lighter, advanced materials makes this type of flight possible. Using alternative fuels for airplane travel is really good, but solar power, in my opinion, would be even better.
Elizabeth, I also was happy to see the lighter alternative materials being used. And I agree that solar power would be ideal for just about everything, if it were feasible in each case. Advances like this one show us that a lot is possible when you combine brains, talent, funding, expertise and willpower.
AnandY, that type of design detail may be available on the Solar Impulse website. I find it interesting that another solar-powered airplane, the prototype Electric High Altitude Solar-Powered Aircraft (ELHASPA), which we describe here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&itc=dn_analysis_element&doc_id=264353&image_number=11 also has very long, thin wings, which are typical of aircraft designed to glide.
Ann, that was my first thought, when I read the title of your article: that the plane would be built like a glider. Especially with these preliminary designs - that only makes sense...not only for general power consumption given the general inefficiency of solar power, but if there is not enough power, the plane can still safely fly...and land!
Nancy, I had that thought, too, even before I saw the photos. One reason is because of the background info I read for the story of the perpetual-flight plane:
NIST's new five-year strategic plan for its Material Measurement Laboratory lists additive manufacturing materials development as one of the main areas it will support by developing measurements, data, techniques, and models.
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