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Technology & Innovation

World’s First Solar-Powered Plane Can Fly At Night, Too

It has wings coated in photovoltaic cells that power four electric motors, and next month, the Solar Impulse single-seater will fly from California to New York.

What’s the Latest Development?


Next month, the Solar Impulse — a single-seater billed as the world’s first solar-powered plane — will fly from California to New York in an attempt to demonstrate its ability to fly nonstop, during daylight and nighttime hours, without needing any fuel. The plane’s extra-long wings are covered in photovoltaic cells, and the power they generate feeds four electric motors. Other test flights done so far include a 26-hour journey over the Swiss Alps and a trip from Spain to north Africa.

What’s the Big Idea?

Although solar-powered commercial flights aren’t coming anytime soon, the Solar Impulse’s co-creator and pilot Andre Borschberg says that their plane was designed “to push people’s assumptions about what solar technology can do.” In order to achieve their goal of a plane that could fly through the night, the design team had to make it weigh less than a typical car, which involved stripping the cockpit down to its bare essentials and leaving out such things as pressurization, heating, and even a separate toilet. In addition, it has a top speed of only 50 miles per hour. Still, Borschberg’s description of flying the Solar Impulse makes it sound like a truly unique experience: “The contact with the external world is much more intense.”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at NPR


Related
“An aircraft fueled by the sun has accomplished its first ever manned night flight,” reports the New Scientist. The Swiss aircraft broke several records for a piloted solar flight.

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