Print 27 comment(s) - last by moenkopi.. on Jul 9 at 12:35 PM

  (Source: associated press)

  (Source: associated press)
The Solar Impulse is relying on sun power as it rides around the clock and attempts night flight.

The Solar Impulse, an experimental solar plane, took off on a historic ride around the world early today from Geneva, Switzerland.   Supporters hope that this flight will prove the value of solar energy.

According to team co-founder Bertrand Piccard, a record-breaking balloonist who's father and grandfather also accomplished  pioneering airborne and submarine feats, the prototype has been designed to test and promote new energy-efficient technologies.  

"The goal of the project is to have a solar-powered plane flying day and night without fuel," Piccard said. "This flight is crucial for the credibility of the project."

Ten test flights have been completed since the project began seven months ago. The prototype aircraft is a single-seater shaped like a giant dragonfly.  It has 12,000 solar panels spread across its 207 foot (63 meter) wingspan.   The aircraft is powered by four small electric motors and will depend on the sun to charge its batteries. 

The theory is that the aircraft will store enough energy during the day to last through the night.  Pilot Andre Borschberg, a former flight jet pilot, will attempt to stay alert during the flight with the help of a ground control team that is monitoring the aircraft on the teams website

Borschberg,  57, is wearing a parachute just in case he runs into trouble in the air.

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RE: A neat toy
By Nightbird321 on 7/7/2010 8:37:05 PM , Rating: 1
With some proper sensors & camera equipment and refitted as a drone, something like this could immediately be pressed into service by the US military for flying search patrols 24/7 in Iraq/Afghanistan, or by the US immigration to police the US-Mexico border. This type of plane's range wouldn't be hampered by frequent refueling, though weather could be a factor unless it can fly above cloud systems.

There would be some competition with blimps though as a scouting platform, it would be interesting to crosscheck strengths and weaknesses.

Slightly off topic, does anyone know how efficient solar panels are at converting solar energy? Unless we're only harvesting a few percent right now, I don't see this ever ferrying people or cargo (unless in blimp form I guess).

RE: A neat toy
By retepallen on 7/8/2010 2:59:35 AM , Rating: 2
Additionally, think about the application for installing solar cells within the wings of commercial airliners.

You could use the power that this generates (with no batteries) to supplement the power requirements for running air conditioning or lighting within the plane.

This could have a small yet important impact on the fuel economy of air-travel.

RE: A neat toy
By moenkopi on 7/9/2010 12:35:04 PM , Rating: 2
First make ground control more efficient by having hybrid systems in the wheels of aircraft, so they wouldn't need their engines to maneuver on the ground.

RE: A neat toy
By Murloc on 7/8/2010 6:41:13 AM , Rating: 2
the efficency is low.

There's much space for improvement.

and anyway this is research done for the sake of it, not to make profit out of it.
If you don't start somewhere you will never make any advancements.

RE: A neat toy
By wushuktl on 7/8/2010 6:49:48 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah you have to start somewhere! I don't understand why a website geared specifically towards technology, research and the advancement of technology has so many commenters that are so quick to talk down on anybody trying to do anything!

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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