Manned Solar-Powered Aircraft Makes Successful Maiden Flight

DN Staff

April 8, 2010

2 Min Read
Manned Solar-Powered Aircraft Makes Successful Maiden Flight

A manned solar-powered aircraft strongly supported bymajor materials' companies flew for an extended period for the first time,going no higher than 4,000 ft above the Swiss countryside. Powered by 12,000solar cells, the goal of the Solar Impulse is to fly around the world,demonstrating the feasibility of solar aircraft.

"This first mission was the most risky phase of theentire project," says Andre Borschberg, CEO and co-founder of the project. "Neverhas an airplane as large and light flown before. The aim was to verify theprototype's behavior in flight and to test its reaction to various maneuvers.The success of this first flight allows us to envisage the further program withgreater serenity."

Solar Impulse program founder Bertrand Piccard called theinaugural flight a crucial step toward fulfilling his goal of circumnavigatingthe globe in such an unusual aircraft. In a statement from the Solar Impulseteam, Piccard said he was relieved to have the first flight completed afterseven years of hard work.

"We still have along way to go until the night flights and an even longer way before flying aroundthe world, but today, thanks to the extraordinary work of an entire team, anessential step toward achieving our vision has been taken", he said. "Ourfuture depends on our ability to convert rapidly to the use of renewableenergies. Solar Impulse is intended to demonstrate what can be done alreadytoday by using these energies and applying new technologies that can savenatural resources."

The Solar Impulse has the wingspan of a jumbo jet to holdall of the solar cells, yet is lightweight to minimize power requirements. At 208ft, the aircraft's wingspan is about 10 ft more than Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Itweighs just 3,500 lb loaded for flight.

Much of the credit goes to polymer companies who are partneringon the project.

Contributions from the Solvay group include:

  • Research into optimum solutions andmaterials, especially through the definition of composite structure materialsand high-performance plastics for metal replacement.

  • The production and/or selection of high-performancepolymers for critical applications, such as watertight joints and fasteners.Bolts and screws, for example, are made from PrimoSpire SRP from SolvayAdvanced Polymers.

  • Methods of encapsulating and assemblingphotovoltaic cells using the structural material selected for the plane.

  • Research into the production and utilizationof appropriate photovoltaic materials.

  • Solutions for improved (Ion-polymer)batteries.

  • Selection of high-performance thermal insulationmaterials.

  • Non-linear numerical simulation usingsoftware adapted to suit large-scale parts and extreme conditions.

  • Mechanical evaluation and testing ofmaterials in extreme conditions.

Bayer MaterialScience is also contributing materials'knowhow to the project.
Manned Solar-Powered Aircraft Makes Successful Maiden Flight

Manned Solar-Powered Aircraft Makes Successful Maiden Flight_A

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