With a resurgence in interest in alternative fuel technology, engineers and researchers the world over are working to break or make new records in all sorts fields, including solar powered aviation. Ahead of an attempt to circumnavigate the entire world, the Solar Impulse team is launching its solar-powered plane on an intercontinental flight from Spain to Morocco. This is one world record that might require an asterisk.
Not that it makes the idea of solar-powered airplanes any less cool. Though of comparable size to many jumbo jets in the air today, the Solar Impulse is powered solely by the sun. 12,000 solar panels dot its body, the result of more than 10 years and $100 million of resarch and development. All of that effort has culminated in an effort to make an intercontinental flight from Spain to Morocco of more than 1,500 miles that launched yesterday.
The flight from Madrid, Spain to Rabat, Morocco, will take approximately two days, due to the slow-moving nature of the Solar Impulse. The team has even set up a live-feed that includes air speed and batter life gauges so you can track the Solar Impulse’s progress. Power comes from four 10 horsepower electric motors that can take the Impulse to a height of 12,000 feet. But don’t pack your bags and buy a ticket yet; the Impulse is not designed to carry passengers, but rather a message about the future of air travel.
That is all well and good, but we can’t exactly on hopeful words. Will solar powered technology ever make headway in the aviation world? This writer thinks it is an inevitability…as a source of backup or alternative power, or perhaps as part of a hybrid setup ala the Volare. A whole passenger plane flying on solar panels? Probably not in our lifetime folks.
Source: Solar Impulse