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Transportation Power Hardware

Solar Impulse Completes First Intercontinental Solar Flight 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the always-land-before-dark dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Slashdotters may remember the Solar Impulse — the world's first 100% solar-powered airplane — from last year when it made its public debut. Today the airplane made news again as it successfully completed the world's first solar-powered intercontinental flight — a pivotal step that paves the way for the plane's first trip around the world in 2014."
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Solar Impulse Completes First Intercontinental Solar Flight

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  • ...when using intercontinental in the context of a 515 mile flight from Europe to Africa. Wake me up when it goes from North America to Europe...
    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @03:24PM (#40236175) Journal

      515 miles isn't impressive for a solar powered flight? Maybe I am naive, but this seems like quite an accomplishment to me. Perhaps you would like to pull something out of your resume that is more impressive?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The 515 miles is impressive. But compared to the size of a continent, it seems like they are bragging without merit. Kind of like how it would sounds if you heard that someone ran around the earth in 20 seconds (but they really ran around the south pole). Kind of like a less extreme example of this [xkcd.com].

        • by rossdee (243626)

          Yeah, in this part of the world, 515 miles sounds more like an interstate flight.

          I have flown from one continent to another, and it 12 hours by 747 - over 6000 miles. (and up wind too)

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        If it made it 500 miles I assume the problem was that the sun went down rather than any mechanical reason why it couldn't fly indefinitely.

        • by PhillC (84728)

          Solar Impulse has already flown continuously for more than 24 hours, to prove that it can fly through the night on battery power alone.

      • Considering that the FAI lists the world record for free distance for open-class GLIDERS at 2259km [fai.org] (1403 miles) [google.com], then I'd have to agree with GPP that no, 515 miles for a POWERED airplane (even solar powered) isn't all that impressive.

        Note: if you just click the FAI link, you won't see the results I'm referencing above. You have to select "DO - Open Class Gliders" in the "subclass" drop-down box, "Free Distance" in the "Type of Record" drop-down box and "World
      • by sdnoob (917382)

        the distance IS impressive. their use of "intercontinental" to describe the distance is not. wouldn't even get across the lengths of some u.s. states.

        the significance, i think, of the 515 miles, is that it is the distance between dayton and kitty hawk.

  • by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @03:25PM (#40236187) Homepage Journal

    piloted their Solar Impulse airplane over 515 miles to their destination in Rabat, Morocco... Furthermore, after almost 20 hours of flight

  • Well, fine, I guess. The article says it took them 20 hours to fly 515 miles. That's about 25mph. So, with necessary rest, etc, around the world in 80 days, basically?

  • Nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joib (70841) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @03:40PM (#40236355)
    The thing has a wingspan on 68m, more than an A340. Yet it weighs 1600 kg, about the same as a car. Carbon fiber and epoxy is a pretty impressive combination..
  • The first car sucked. The first bicycle sucked. It's a goddamn proof of concept, people. Stop shit-talking it, this is how progress is made.

    • by Thelasko (1196535)

      The first car sucked. The first bicycle sucked. It's a goddamn proof of concept, people. Stop shit-talking it, this is how progress is made.

      The first solar aircraft was built in 1974. [wikipedia.org] This is hardly the first. By 1981, a solar powered aircraft flew 163 miles. [wikipedia.org] The fact it took 31 years to increase the range by a factor of ~3 is piss poor IMHO.

      Wake me when it circumnavigates the globe without stopping. [wikipedia.org] Then I'll be impressed.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The first car sucked. The first bicycle sucked. It's a goddamn proof of concept, people. Stop shit-talking it, this is how progress is made.

        The first solar aircraft was built in 1974. [wikipedia.org] This is hardly the first. By 1981, a solar powered aircraft flew 163 miles. [wikipedia.org] The fact it took 31 years to increase the range by a factor of ~3 is piss poor IMHO.

        Wake me when it circumnavigates the globe without stopping. [wikipedia.org] Then I'll be impressed.

        If you had read your links, you knew that the Solar Riser's solar panels needed 1.5 hours of bright sunshine, to produce enough energy to fly for 3 to 5 minutes. The Solar Impulse on the other hand, is (in theory, if the pilot would not need to sleep) able to fly non-stop. Recharging it's batteries while the sun is shining (while producing enough energy to keep flying all the time).

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Supposing they solve the remaining problems (eg. Sun going down), how will this be better than an airship (Zeppelin/Blimp)?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The very same plane stayed in air for 24 h straight last year, to prove it could; this was covered on Slashdot. The solar panels charge its batteries and power its flight at the same time.

  • So all the people seeing this as progress, realize that in 30+ years solar panels have not improved significantly enough to be able to generate the kind of power required to move 2 people, let alone 100 or 300.

    This is a nice novelty, but does not harken a new era in solar power flight until there is some fundamental improvements in solar power technology.

  • And still no Captain Piccard jokes. You know, I'm really getting worried about you, Slashdot.
  • 24 Hour DHS monitoring drones - not only can they see you and your heat signatures through walls, but they can also intercept your cell phones and wireless networks!

    Now I can feel safe!
  • They flew an airplane 515 miles using nothing but the sun. They flew. Not drove, not sailed, not floated. It's impressive. Dead impressive. It's a vision of the world that could be.

    I consign those who pooh-pooh this to go back and try to do something equally impressive without fossil fuels or equal cheats.

  • It's really great that someone is working on this.
    However, SolarImpulse is shooting for an eventual round-the-world, non-stop flight. They're even designing a new plane:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Impulse#Planned_second_aircraft_.28HB-SIB.29 [wikipedia.org]

    There's some major logistical challenges to go along with the technical challenges:
    1) They need at least two pilots to spell each other (which means more weight)
    2) The new plane would have to go faster - at 70kph, flying 40,000 km would take 24 days
    3)

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