First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

Summary: A plane developed by Solar Impulse landed Thursday morning after a 26-hour flight that was entirely powered by solar energy.

TOPICS: Telcos

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  • On the runway.

  • CEO and co-founder of Solar Impulse André Borschberg is at the controls.

Topic: Telcos

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  • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

    Very cool! I had thought the plane was a remotely operated aircraft (weight saving and all that), but it was piloted. Some feat of engineering! Kudos to the folks that built it!
    • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

      NASA has had some solar powered aircraft for quite a while, but I guess the big difference here is that it was piloted, not a remote vehicle. Very cool technology. Here's the NASA bird -
      • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

        I looked at the link you provided. There are some major differences between the plan NASA has and the one in this article.

        1) This plane's pilot is on board. Not NASA's.
        2) This plane can fly at night. Not NASA's.
      • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

        Another difference: As far as I can tell, NASA stopped work in this area after Helios broke apart in turbulent air off Hawaii in 2003. For photos of the crash, lookup "NASA_Pathfinder" on wikipedia.
  • Quite a feat, but don't pretend there was no pollution!

    With wind/solar power, *lifecycle* pollution is the important thing, as *building* a wind turbine or this plane causes tons of pollution that can only be overcome after many years (in the case of this plane, probably never given it's carrying capacity).

    Nonetheless an impressive feat, though I wonder why they stopped after 26 hours if the sun was again up.
    • lifecycle pollution

      Certainly lifecycle pollution is the bigger picture. I'm not sure how much was involved here. In theory, could the manufacturing footprint be made arbitrarily small, given sufficient time? How does it compare with making conventional aircraft? Does anyone count these things?
    • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

      @bbrucec It's just a guess, but perhaps the pilot wanted some sleep after 26 hours of flying an experimental plane.
      Terry in Nevada
  • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

    64 Meters wing span.. that must be an enormous aircraft.. I wonder what is the weight of the plane including the pilot...
    Nagesh Tummala
  • In order to keep weight down...

    ...the thing doesn't even have an auto-pilot.

    So the pilot has to stay awake for the entire flight.

    That's tough enough for a 24-hour test flight. I cannot imagine how that's going to work for the eventual around-the-world flight.

    Presumedly, they could solve the weight problem by them.
  • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

    Sounds like it took off with a full charge, (maybe it takes multiple days to fully charge).
    Could be that solar is not capable of maintaining flight without pre-charged batteries assisting , let alone trying to recharge the batteries in flight.
    • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

      News articles for this plane report, as does the guy in charge of this project, that the plane is fully powered by solar energy by day, AND that the batteries are also charged up during the flight - by the sun, and then the batteries take over at night or when the sun does not provide enough light to the solar cells to power the flight.
  • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

    What is the lift capacity? Practical use in mach up if any? Conventional engines could be used to get you airborne and then switch to solar, a major reduction in CO emissions.
  • Coming along NICELY

    Outstanding Feat!! The team should all be so proud of your accomplishments. I have been following your progress for some time. Perhaps the people who are criticizing you should realize that you just flew for the first time in April!! 26 hour aloft is absolutely incredible. Keep it up. Those interested in following your progress can get a free Iphone App. Search for "Solar Impulse." Kudos to all!
  • Perpetual Predators``

    The military will love to use this technology to extend Predator airtime. Both good and bad depending on point of view.
  • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

    Now if NASA could ruggedize the Helios and license the tech in this plane to make it work 24/7... Think of the fact that this would allow cellular towers to be airborne, and extend coverage to where we'd have 100% coverage throughout the US (and elsewhere!) with sufficient overlap to be useful. (estimates are that airborne cell towers would have a radius of 50-60 miles (80.5-96.6km (approx.))

    One mustn't forget the improvement in energy density of batteries that has happened since 1993 as well. Energy density is much higher, and recharge times are much reduced. Kudos indeed!
    Raymond Danner
    • RE: First night flight by a solar plane (photos)

      Corrections to my post (above):

      Coverage area of airborne cell towers was estimated (last I recall) to be a 50-60 mile diameter, and energy density of batteries has certainly exploded since 1993, but meant "since 2003". My mistakes, and my apologies.
      Raymond Danner