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Solar Impulse

Pictured above is proof that alternative energy sources are a viable way to replace the fossil fuels we have been dependent on for so long. Called the Solar Impulse it’s the creation of Bertrand Piccard, the grandson of Auguste Piccard who invented a pressurized gondola that allowed him to travel 50,000 feet into the air… in 1931.

You can see the pedigree that Bertrand comes from and understand his drive to push limits and explore things previously thought to be impossible. His goal for the Solar Impulse was to create the world’s first solar-powered plane that could travel both day and night, an interesting prospect since there are no solar rays to collect at night…

Wit a wingspan comparable to that of an Aerobus A340 jet (208 feet) and the weight (3,527 pounds) of a family automobile, this aircraft was built to be lightweight yet durable during flight. Amazingly, it’s powered by just four 10 horsepower electric engines — basically they took four scooter motors and attached them to the wings. The structure of the plane is made up of lightweight carbon fiber that house 882 pounds of batteries and the cockpit. A total of 10,748 solar cells were used along the wingspan, as well as the real stabilizer, allowing the craft to power the engines to a top speed of 43.5 mph. It’s maximum cruising altitude is 28,000 feet, very close to the average of commercial airliners.

Solar Impulse completed its first 24 hour flight on July 7th of this year. Flying all day, the plane stored up solar energy into its batteries for later use. To conserve that battery energy at night, Piccard rose to a higher altitude that allowed him shut his engines off to glide on the updrafts in the sky. Using this method, he was able to wait until he absolutely needed to turn on the electrical engines that used the reserve power supply. An impressive feat for sure, with the only barriers during the flight being cold and fatigue.

You can watch a highlight video of the Solar Impulse below.

More at SolarImpulse.com, via CNN

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