Solar Impulse tests solar-powered aircraftAugust 16, 2012
Solar energy gaining more attention for its use in air travel
Solar energy is often considered for its uses for residential and commercial power. Like other forms of alternative energy, solar has been somewhat typecast into a very specific role. At one point, the energy has been considered viable for use in vehicles, but solar energy has since lost favor in terms of transportation. The use of solar energy in transportation had been largely confined to land-based vehicles, such as cars, which may have been the reason for its lack of popularity. Solar Impulse, a Swiss solar energy project, aims to bring solar energy into the realm of air travel.
Solar Impulse reports successful 4,000 mile flight of solar-powered plan
The project has produced a fixed-wing aircraft that is equipped with an array of solar panels. The plane, which has been given a registration code of HB-SIA, carries no oil, but only has enough room to accommodate two pilots. Because the aircraft carries no oil, it is incredibly light, thus reducing its consumption of energy. The solar panels fixated to the plane funnel electricity to a battery that is used to power the plans motors and various other functions. Solar Impulse recently launched a test flight of the plane, which its pilots reportedly traveled for 4,000 miles without any trouble.
Plane is able to operate at night
Theoretically, the plan can stay in the air for as long as the sun is out. Solar Impulse claims that the aircraft can perform at night as well. In 2010, the project tested the vehicle when the sun was not present. Solar Impulse notes that the prototype being used at the time was able to travel for 26 hours without experiencing any problems.
Aircraft shows promising economic potential
The economic implications of a solar-powered aircraft are somewhat serious. Because the plane does not use oil, the cost of fuel is not a cause for concern. The environmental impact of the aircraft is also non-existent as it is incapable of producing greenhouse emissions. The plane’s 2,000 solar panels and cells are its most expensive features. Solar Impulse notes that a solar-powered plane could be commercially produced, but such an endeavor could take years to reach fruition.
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