Friday, July 9, 2010
Solar Impulse" is at it again. The Impulse became the first solar powered plane to make an overnight flight without fuel. The flight took over 26 hours to complete with the flight taking place near the Swiss Alps.
Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg expressed excitement about watching the plane's energy levels rise and dip according to the available sunlight:
"Just sitting there and watching the battery charge level rise and rise thanks to the sun… And then that suspense, not knowing whether we were going to manage to stay up in the air the whole night. And finally the joy of seeing the sun rise and feeling the energy beginning to circulate in the solar panels again," he said."
Team flight leader Claude Nicollier said at this time it's not possible to fly the plane on autopilot so there's no "snoozing" on the Impulse.
“It reacts slowly as it has entirely manual controls – push rods, cables and direct input mechanisms. You have to get used to it as there is a tendency to overcompensate.”
More at Solar Impulse.
At Swiss Info.com there's a interesting article on the realistic future of using solar power to fuel planes. The heavier the plane the more problems the flight teams will encounter and the thought of ever having a heavyweight solar powered passenger plane is not practical according to this piece.
However the Chinese use electrical planes for flight instruction and they have a 45 minute run. Hangers could install solar panels on the roof and charge the batteries of these planes.
Here is that article discussing solar powered flight at SwissInfo.com.