Solar solutions bringing perpetual flight closer
A company in Europe is moving closer to its goal of creating a solar-powered plane that can fly indefinitely.
Engineers at the Italian aerospace firm Solar Flight have been working on a number of prototypes for such an aircraft, and recently reported on their success so far.
“Over the past months, the flying qualities of the airplane, as well as the performance of the battery system, motor, propeller, folding hub mechanism, and landing gear retraction systems have been explored,” Solar Flight’s site update says.
“More area and additional solar cells were added to the horizontal stabiliser.
“Now the airplane is docile with good control authority in the air and on the ground. The performance is better than the previous airplane in every category; operations are easier because the landing gear and systems are more conventional; and the airplane has enough excess power to carry a passenger and baggage.”
Solar Flight’s ‘Sunseeker Duo’ two-seater aircraft runs a 25 kilowatt (33.5 horsepower) motor, and with two people on board can cruise on solar power for over 12 hours.
The plan contains a battery pack in the fuselage, which stores excess energy harvested from solar cells lining wings and tail surfaces.
The Sunseeker has a wingspan of 22 metres, weighs 280 kg and includes 1,510 solar cells lining the wings and tail.
Online technology magazine Gizmag has quoted project leader Eric Raymond saying; “The lithium batteries today have seven times more capacity than the nickel cadmium batteries we used in Sunseeker I.”
The Sunseeker Duo will soon embark on long flight expeditions around the European continent, hoping to create a new set of official aviation records, the company says.