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« The Value Chain 2.0: Bringing In The Consumer | Main | links for 2008-06-02 »

May 29, 2008

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Absolutely love the project, but wonder how much extra energy cost goes into carrying the pilot?

Could we already send an unmanned solar aircraft around the earth?

Hi Thomas. "Around the Earth", I doubt it with current technology (including weather and routing technology). For shorter stretches, yes. As I say in the story, prototypes of solar planes have been around for a while. Here are some: An aircraft called Solar Challenger flew the English Channel in 1981. In 1990 Eric Raymond crossed the U.S. in 21 stages, the longest being 400 km, over a period of 2 months in his solar glider (glider, not plane) Sunseeker. NASA has been working on pilotless drones, one of which, Helios, crashed in the Pacific Ocean in 2003 after reaching a record altitude of 30,000 meters, while another, SoLong, flew for 24 hours over the Mojave Desert in California last year. And I'm sure this list is not complete. But the particularity of Solar Impulse is to HAVE a pilot on board, and to fly day and night, and to fly on its own power -- before takeoff batteries will be charged directly from the plane's solar cells, not with energy taken from the grid.
:-) B-

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