A First: Solar Plane Successfully Flies at Night
CREDIT: The Solar Impulse project
One of the problems with solar power is that it doesn’t work as well at night. For appliances, this is only an inconvenience, but for planes, it could mean falling out of the sky.
However, earlier today, the Solar Impulse project proved that a solar-powered plane could fly through the night when its HB-SIA craft successfully completed a 26-hour trip.
Around 4:40PM Switzerland time, the prototype aircraft reached an altitude of 28,543 feet (8,700 m). With the help 12,000 solar panels built into its enormous 211-foot wide (63.4 m) wingspan, its 882 pounds (400kg) of batteries were fully charged during the long ascent. Over the course of the flight, the HB-SIA reached a top speed of 75 mph (120 kph).
“During the whole of the flight, I just sat there and watched the battery charge level rise and rise! Sitting in a plane producing more energy than it consumes is a fantastic feeling”, said André Borschberg , CEO and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project, and pilot of the HB-SIA.
The HB-SIA is a prototype for a solar-powered plane that Solar Impulse hopes will circumnavigate the globe. Aside from breaking records, these flights also serve as proof that alternative energy-fueled planes can perform the same tasks as the gas guzzlers currently in the skies.