Thursday, July 8, 2010

Solar Powered Airplane Successfully Completes First Night Flight

A follow up to the Solar-Powered Airplane Makes First Night Flight story. The flight was a success. What that means is that theoretically we have plane that can fly indefinitely. In practice however, any human complement would need supplies that the plane may need to land for. Even if you could transfer the supplies mid air, it would still need to land for general maintenance. It seems a bad idea to be a few miles high while doing some work on the wings.

"After flying for over 26 straight hours, pilot AndrĂ© Borschberg landed the solar-powered Solar Impulse HB-SIA airplane to cheers and applause at the Payerne airbase in Switzerland, successfully completing the goal of flying the aircraft through the night. According to Bertrand Piccard, president of Solar Impulse, there was power to spare, with over three hours of energy remaining in the sun-gathering lithium batteries. “This is a highly symbolic moment: flying by night using solely solar power is a stunning manifestation of the potential that clean technologies offer today to reduce the dependency of our society on fossil fuels!" Piccard said. "We are on the verge of the perpetual flight."

With an official flight time of 26 hours and 9 minutes, the lightweight carbon fiber plane reached a a maximum altitude of 8,700 m (28,543 ft), a top speed of 68 knots (ground speed), an average speed of 23 knots. The HB-SIA flew solely on solar power, gathering and storing it during the daylight hours, and using the energy to fly through the night.

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