Real planes: April 2010 Archives

Manned solar powered flight achieved today!

| Comments (0)
The news services are buzzing with word that Solar Impulse has achieved sustained flight. What is Solar Impulse? Amazing engineering.
Solar Impulse - alps
A 1,600kg manned solar fueled electric powered airplane.

200m^2 of solar cells provide power to run 4 x 7,500W motors (peak output). The solar panels only receive 250W/m^2 on average throughout the day, so that means only 6,000W total (1,500 / motor) of continuous thrust is possible.
The article notes that the plane glided for 87 minutes. I believe the media is taking some literary license with the word 'glided'. According to the new release from Solar Impulse, the plane took off, climbed to 1,200m on a test flight to familiarize the pilot with the handling, etc. The news release says the flight lasted 87 minutes - so I don't think there was much gliding going on (certainly not during the climb).
Solar Impulse - pilot
The technical details that have been released are impressive:

Wingspan:63,40 m
Length:21,85 m
Height:6,40 m
Weight:1 600 Kg
Motor power:4 x 10 HP electric engines
Solar cells:11 628 (10 748 on the wing, 880 on the horizontal stabilizer)
Average flying speed:70 km/h
Take-off speed:35 km/h
Maximum altitude:8 500 m (27 900 ft)

Their ultimate goal? Fly around the world, including flying at night.