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Engineering Materials
100-Percent Solar Plane Flies High on Advanced Materials
6/13/2013

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)
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)

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AnandY
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Re : 100-Percent Solar Plane Flies High on Advanced Materials
AnandY   6/13/2013 6:01:39 AM
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@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.

AnandY
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High winds vulnerability
AnandY   6/13/2013 6:01:58 AM
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Wings of the solar plane seems to be long and thin. This can make Solar plane to be very vulnerable to high winds and turbulence. How is this factor taken into consideration?

Elizabeth M
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Re: Re : 100-Percent Solar Plane Flies High on Advanced Materials
Elizabeth M   6/13/2013 7:28:39 AM
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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.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Re : 100-Percent Solar Plane Flies High on Advanced Materials
Ann R. Thryft   6/13/2013 12:38:15 PM
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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.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: High winds vulnerability
Ann R. Thryft   6/13/2013 12:46:11 PM
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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.

Nancy Golden
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Re: High winds vulnerability
Nancy Golden   6/13/2013 1:08:11 PM
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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!

tekochip
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A Few Specs
tekochip   6/13/2013 5:34:43 PM
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A few specs are in order:
General characteristics
Crew: 1
Length: 21.85 m (71.7 ft)
Wingspan: 63.4 m (208 ft)
Height: 6.40 m (21.0 ft)
Wing area: 11,628 photovoltaic cells rated at 45 kW peak: 200 m2 (2,200 sq ft)
Loaded weight: 1,600 kg (3,500 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) Powerplant: 4 × electric motors, powered by 4 x 21 kWh lithium-ion batteries (450 kg), providing 7.5 kW (10 HP) each
Take-off speed: 35 kilometres per hour (22 mph)
 
Performance
Cruise speed: 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph)
Endurance: 36 hours (projected)
Service ceiling: 8,500 m (27,900 ft) with a maximum altitude of 12,000 metres (39,000 ft)
 
Compare that to a `172, especially the weight, service ceiling and cruise speed.
 
General characteristics
Crew: one
Capacity: three passengers
Length: 27 ft 2 in (8.28 m)
Wingspan: 36 ft 1 in (11.00 m)
Height: 8 ft 11 in (2.72 m)
Wing area: 174 sq ft (16.2 m2)
Empty weight: 1,691 lb (767 kg)
Gross weight: 2,450 lb (1,111 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming IO-360-L2A four cylinder, 160 hp (120 kW)
 
Performance
Cruise speed: 122 kn (140 mph; 226 km/h)
Stall speed: 47 kn (54 mph; 87 km/h) (power off, flaps down)[64]
Never exceed speed: 163 kn (188 mph; 302 km/h) (IAS)[7]
Range: 696 nmi (801 mi; 1,289 km) with 45 minute reserve, 55% Power, at 12,000 ft Service ceiling: 13,500 ft (4,100 m)
Rate of climb: 721 ft/min (3.66 m/s)


Ann R. Thryft
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Re: High winds vulnerability
Ann R. Thryft   6/13/2013 8:06:40 PM
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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: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=253145

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: A Few Specs
Ann R. Thryft   6/13/2013 8:07:50 PM
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tekochip, thanks for posting the specs. We didn't have room, and besides, I was writing an article, not a data sheet :) Most of them are in that brochure we published a link to.

Pubudu
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Re: Re : 100-Percent Solar Plane Flies High on Advanced Materials
Pubudu   6/15/2013 3:24:16 AM
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AnandY,  "Solar energy is potential solutions to cut costs."

I believe that its almost free it will have only a first time cost of developing the mechanism

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