Blazing Wings recently posted a list and great photos of twelve solar powered airplanes. It is worth a click just to look at all the different ways people solve the same set of problems. One of the 12 solar airplanes is the Solar Impulse, brainchild of aero pioneer Bertrand Piccard who flew the Orbiter 3 balloon around the world in 1999. His goal now is to fly non-stop around the world on only solar power in the Solar Impulse.
All of the solar airplanes at Blazing Wings look more like gliders than
fighters. They have long narrow wings so they can collect enough
solar power and narrow so they donâ€™t add unnecessary drag. Letâ€™s face it, the laws of physics are against solar
flight. We get only about 92 watts per
square foot of energy from the sun and even the best solar panels are only 40% efficient.
The Solar Impulse will sport an incredible 2,700 square feet of panels on a 231 foot wingspan (the same span as a 747-400) giving it about 65 hp. Piccard will use the prevailing winds at high altitudes to assist propulsion, not unlike Orbiter 3.
The Solar Impulse is limited in part by the energy density
of the batteries. Piccard plans to
overcome this limitation by gaining altitude in daylight and slowly
gliding to a lower altitude at night. Basically, the Earth's gravity will be his power-storage device.
Advanced engineering of the energy systems and aerodynamics for the Solar Impulse should lead to better photovoltaic systems for terrestrial use as well as more fuel efficient airplanes.
Via: Blazing Wings
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