Meet the Flying Solar Aircraft Carrier … from 1934

solar aircraft carrier

It may seem obvious, now, but there was a time when extracting electricity from the sun’s rays was the wildest form of experimentation. Back in those heady, pre-war days, a forward-looking magazine called Modern Mechanix and Inventions proposed using “solar photo cells” and an airplane runway to build an all-electric, airborne aircraft carrier on the back of a military airship. (!)

Interestingly, the numbers quoted by Modern Mechanix – “the sun can develop as much as 86,300 kilowatts … in an area of a square mile” – are visually similar to more modern estimates from, for example, green energy company (and Simona DeSilvestro’s sponsor in F1) Entergy, who sites 1 megawatt per 7.4 acres (640 acres per square mile, divided by 7.4 = 86). Although, it should be noted that that’s 86 MEGAwatts, so the 1934 guys would have to move the decimal over a few places.

As for the magazine’s calculated horsepower figure for our flying aircraft carrier? You engineers out there are going to have to figure that one out for me – you can check out their full text on the subject, below, and I hope you enjoy the old-timey illustrations as much as I did.


SUN’S RAYS TO DRIVE Aerial Landing Field

RECENT experiments in the conversion of the sun’s rays into electric power have led to an unusual idea in aerial equipment. It is a dirigible that not only would get its power from the sun but also provide space for a landing field in the air.

The ordinary cigar-shaped dirigible would in effect have a slice taken from the upper half of the gas bag. This would provide a large deck on which could be mounted solar photo cells, an airplane runway, and a hangar. Planes could land on the dirigible, floating over the sea, to refuel for trans-ocean passenger service.

Another unusual feature of this design, in addition to the landing field, is the use of sun rays to power the motors of the dirigible. Scientists estimate that the sun can develop as much as 86,300 kilowatts or 115,000 horsepower per hour in an area of a square mile. Photo cells convert the sun’s energy into electricity. When this can be done on a practical basis, the roof of an ordinary house can be used to develop electricity for the home.



Source | Images: Modern Mexhanix.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.