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Plane To Be Powered By Solar Panels

We suppose it was bound to happen! Later this spring an extremely light plane is to fly from one coast to the other in the United States and the aircraft will be powered entirely by the sun. The plane, known fittingly as the Solar Impulse, is due to start its monumental journey on the 1st May 2013 with stop-over in a number of locations including Dallas in Texas. As far as we are aware this is the first plane of its kind to be powered in such a way.

Solar panels are being used to power a plane
(image credit: Dave Dugdale)

The plane will not need any form of fuel, being powered purely using battery power and solar panelling.  The plane is to be piloted by two Swiss aviators by the names of Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard. They have spent ten years involved in the design process.

It is expected to start its journey from Moffett Field and is likely to be going to make stops in Phoenix in Arizona, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Washington DC plus either one of St Louis, Nashville in Tennessee or Atlanta in Georgia so there will hopefully be plenty of opportunity for members of the public to view the plane. Hopefully, the plane will arrive in New York some time in July 2013.

This unique lightweight plane will only be able to carry one person – the pilot with no capacity to carry any passengers but who knows what the future will hold in this respect. Who would have thought all those years ago that people would be able to travel in any other way than on land?

It is the aim of those involved in the project that by 2015 they will have a plane that is capable of travelling completely around the world using solar energy. The plane has the capability to harness the energy of the sun even after the setting of the sun.

Interestingly, the plane only requires the same amount of power as that of a small scooter, weighs about the same as a station waggon but has a wingspan that is the length of a Boeing 747. The solar panels are located over its wings and will use the sun’s power during daylight with batteries being used to store additional energy to be used when the plane is travelling through the night. One of the reasons why the plane is so light is due to the construction material used – carbon fibre.

The plane has been flown for 26 hours back in 2010 and last year it completed a flight from Switzerland to Morocco without having to use any fuel. In order to be able to fly around the world without stopping it would take the plane five days but it is not currently capable of doing this.

Who knows what the future holds for a solar powered plane. Perhaps, one day such a one will be capable of carrying cargo and passengers on a commercial basis.

Back in 1999, Bertrand Piccard flew a hot air balloon around the globe.

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