Solar Plane's Legacy Will Be In Your Homes-- Not The Skies
The solar plane, Impulse, has finally finished its epic journey around the world. However, it biggest impact will be in your homes not the skies. Here's an excerpt:
After 12 years of planning and testing, Solar Impulse has finally completed its epic voyage around the world. The solar-powered plane first set off from Abu Dhabi 16 months ago, and it has since travelled some 25,000 miles (40,000km) over 17 gruelling legs – all without using a single drop of fuel.
Solar Impulse is no ordinary aircraft – it has the span of a Boeing 747 but weighs little more than a family car. Covering these huge carbon-fibre composite wings are more than 17,000 solar cells, which provide energy for its four propellers during the day, while also charging four lithium batteries which provide power during the night.
To save weight, the unpressurised cabin has just enough room for one pilot, no bigger than the front of a typical car. For up to five days and nights the pilots, Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard have to do everything in this confined space. Fly, eat, sleep (just 20 minutes at a time) and wash. In theory, Solar Impulse could fly continuously for many months, but the tiny cockpit means it must land to swap pilots after each leg. As part of their trip they have broken several world records including the longest continuous flight of any solo fixed wing aircraft – almost 118 hours.
But after this epic voyage, the real question is what will be the legacy of Solar Impulse? Are we likely to see 747s with solar cells anytime soon? The short answer is unfortunately no.