Flying on Photons

Solar Impulse: A plane powered by solar energy.

Is this the future of aviation? Swiss adventurer Betrand Piccard hopes so, and so do we. The plane above is his most recent project: Solar Impulse. Piccard plans to fly this plan across the Atlantic in 2012 and around the world in 2013.

How exactly does one fly on photons?

  • The plane has a wing span of 64 meters (equivalent to an Airbus 340) but only weighs 1600 Kg which is equivalent to a small car. This allows th plane to consume the power of a small motorcycle in flight.
  • There are 12,000 photovoltaic cells in the wings, averaging 6,000 watts.
  • Plane has 400 Kg of lithium batteries that allow it to store energy for night flights.
  • The key to the flight is optimizing on energy usage. Solar power is used to takeoff and climbing, while¬†gliding is used at a comfortable altitude (usually 27,000 feet). A pilot optimizes on energy use by deciding when to climb and when to glide.

Solar impulse seems to be a innovations away from carrying commercial passengers, it is however a step in the right direction to mitigate the environmental damage caused by fossil fuel flights. Through innovation and human ingenuity, we will get there in the not so distant future.


About ticsnow

INNOVATOR, CONTRIBUTOR, CROSS POLLINATOR. Working on creating a sustainable world that works for all of us.
This entry was posted in Creativity, Green Energy, Innovation, Renewable Energy, Sustainability, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Flying on Photons

  1. Alex H. says:

    Interesting blog you have here. Your post mentioned that the plane was able to fly easily due to its lightweight infrastructure. I wonder how this technology could be applied to heavier planes used for passenger flights? Interesting article!

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