Fueled only by the power of the sun, Solar Impulse has just recently finished it’s first cross-country flight. This flight had many stops, and was very slow-going (about two months total), but also set three world records for manned solar-powered flight in the process, including the highest flight (30,300 ft), the longest flight (26 hours), and the farthest flight (693 miles).
There are those who see this and immediately blast it for not being applicable for real-life scenarios due to lacking power, speed, and durability. The thing to keep in mind is that this flight is symbolic of the future potential of solar-powered flight in the same way the the first Wright-brothers flight was symbolic of the future of manned airplane flights.
“Our airplane is not designed to carry passengers, but to carry a message.” Bertrand Piccard
I believe the message that is send is one of possibility, one that states the future is here and let’s embrace it.
The plane is powered by solar cells that are not necessarily the most efficient, however, they have the best efficiency to weight ratio which is important to getting the most distance from each kWH of energy. The long-term goal is to eventually be capable of perpetual flight without the need of fuel. A worthy goal, but not one that will be attained before the plane’s next adventure to traverse the globe in 2015.
The application of this type of transport in the future is unknown exactly… With high speed rail, hyperloop, and other technologies coming forward, who knows what the future of transportation will be?
- Solar Powered Aircraft Flies From SF to NYC Under Solar Power (With a Few Pitstops) (singularityhub.com)
- 4,000 MPH Super “Train” – NY to LA in 45 Minutes