View Full Version : Discussion: Solar Aircraft to Fly Around the ...

2005-Jul-06, 05:34 PM
SUMMARY: The European Space Agency is helping Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard construct a solar powered airplane that will fly around the world in 2010. Piccard made the first non-stop flight around the world in a balloon in 1999 with Brian Jones from Britain. When they make their attempt, the Solar Impulse will be flown by three pilots in shifts, and travel along the equator to maximize the Sun's energy.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/solar_aircraft_fly_world.html)

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2005-Jul-06, 07:05 PM
This kind of technology has so many uses. The article mentions passenger travel not being practicle in this case, which is not only obvious, but also a testament to what the public percieves the uses of aircraft to be limited to.

Of course no one would need to fly such long distances at such slow speeds; the technology is much better applied elsewhere. In order for this aircraft to do what it intends to, it must be incredibly mass-efficient. It must be incredibly power-efficient, and must have incredible aerodynamics. Take that plane, and imagine a bit:

Replace the 3 pilots with sensors and autonomous computer control. A plane like this could fly days on end and serve as high altitude meteorlogical research platform, or a surveillance platform for the military.

If space debris takes out a major space-based satellite, it could even be a quick replacement or maybe a cheap alternative to communications and relay satellites.

Most exciting would be the installation of batteries and telesopes. The plane could fly during the day, recharging, climbing, and then by night be used as a near-space telescope without all that pesky atmospheric blur.

exciting stuff.

Ray Bingham
2005-Jul-07, 03:24 AM
Just sort of wondering how they will keep an all solar powered airplane airborne during the night. Actually it seems that if they fly in the sun during the day and are on the far side of the earth (behind the earth in relation to the sun) have they not already circled the earth. It just, in part kept up with them. Wouldn't this be true of anyone who made a 24 hour flight even if they stayed over their own home town.

If it takes them two or three or more days to return to the same spot, How many times have they circled the earth? One more than they were aloft?

Ray Bingham

2005-Jul-07, 02:45 PM
Depending on the flight pattern and time of year, they could chase the sun by zigzagging North and South to maximize their daylight. I imagine their flight profile will be common with that of current autonomous UAVs: Recharge during the day, climb higher, then cruise at low power and sick a bit at night until daybreak, where you start all over again.

2005-Jul-27, 02:49 AM
Sounds like the best way to see the planet other that in space.