Business & GA, Commercial, Military

Solar-Powered Airplane Ready for Coast-to-Coast U.S. Flight

By Woodrow Bellamy III | March 29, 2013
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Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, founders of the Solar Impulse project, on Thursday announced a schedule for their coast-to-coast U.S. flight with their aircraft powered exclusively by solar energy.

Piccard and Borschberg first debuted the Solar Impulse aircraft with a successful 26-hour solar powered flight over Switzerland in2010. Now the team is ready for a flight from California to New York City with stops Arizona, Texas and Washington D.C. beginning in early May. The aircraft is scheduled to reach its final destination at New York’s JFK airport in early July.

The Solar Impulse team has said that it can’t foresee commercial flights powered by solar energy in the near future, but that its goal is to promote clean technologies.

The aircraft has a wingspan of 208 ft and is powered by the 12,000 solar cells that rest below the solar panels on the upper part of the wings. The cells capture the energy of the sun and transform it into electricity, simultaneously powering the aircraft’s four engines and lithium ion batteries. While the airplane is in flight, it is powered by the energy of the sun, storing excess energy in the batteries, which can than be used at night or whenever sunlight is unavailable.

“A flying laboratory for clean technologies, this prototype is the result of seven years of intense work in the fields of materials science, energy management and man-machine interface. Many of these technologies can also be applied to sectors beyond aviation,” said Borschberg.

Following the cross-country flight this year, the Solar Impulse team plans to attempt to circumnavigate the globe with its aircraft in 2015 using no jet fuel. More

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