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Transportation Power Technology

Solar-Powered Plane Makes First Successful Flight 118

lilbridge writes "The Solar Impulse, a solar-powered plane covered in 12,000 solar cells, took its maiden flight today in Switzerland. The plane stayed aloft for 87 minutes, performing test maneuvers as well as completing a successful takeoff and landing. With the first test flight behind them, the developers can focus on gearing up for their around-the-world solar powered flight set for 2012."
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Solar-Powered Plane Makes First Successful Flight

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  • by DarkKnightRadick ( 268025 ) <the_spoon.geo@yahoo.com> on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @01:55PM (#31764036) Homepage Journal

    This [nasa.gov] represents the first solar-powered flights ever. Not the plane in this article.

    I guess we've forgotten:

    • Sunrise II - November 4, 1974
    • Gossamer Penguin - May 18, 1980 (solar powered flight), August 7, 1980 (solar-powered public demo)
    • Solar Challenger - July 7, 1981 (cross-Channel flight)
    • Pathfinder - September 11, 1995 (reached record altitude of 50,500ft); April (or sometime later, article doesn't say) 1997 (set new record for both prop and solar powered planes with altitude of 71,530ft)
    • Pathfinder-Plus - August 6, 1998 (set new altitude record for prop and solar plane: 80,201 ft)

    From the article:

    After seven years in the making, the Solar Impulse made its first real flight this morning from an airbase in Switzerland. The solar-powered plane got up to 5,500 ft in altitude and performed test maneuvers in order to see if the plane handled as well as simulations predicted.

    Really? And this is impressive how? Seven years to reinvent existing technology? Puh-lease.

  • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:23PM (#31764426)

    As one of the designers of the system, I have just this to say... gosh, we never thought of that. Looking at the designs again in light of your insightful, informed comments it's clear that we're all insane and or incompetent for designing this thing. We should have realized sooner, but I guess we were all to drunk/high to notice.


    This was designed by engineers with experience in the field. They know all about power to weight ratios, wingspans, and surface areas. The fact that you were able to come up with your objections with about 30 seconds of thought should make you realize that the engineers involved probably came up with the same concerns somewhere along the 7 year development cycle. As for it being miserable to fly... of course it is, this isn't a sport plane or even a transport plane, it's a proof of concept at best (and I don't really see how the concept could ever really be made into anything other than a gee whiz toy).

  • Re:Around the world (Score:3, Informative)

    by magarity ( 164372 ) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:45PM (#31764698)

    So, when you jump in the air the Earth rotates under you? Yeah, I didn't think so
    What an extremely funny comment - obviously you've never taken a long flight. Take off from San Francisco in the morning and go to somewhere in SE Asia on a commercial airliner and the sun will be up the whole way thanks to the plane's speed. BA a few times had "new year's eve around the world" flights because the Concorde was faster than the Earth's rotation with time to spare for refueling.
    That's what the GP was wondering about, not you hopping in place, silly. Still, at 70mph, this solar plane doesn't have a chance.

  • Re:Around the world (Score:3, Informative)

    by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:50PM (#31765766)

    Or study some weather. It is called the Coriolis effect (if I'm spelling that correctly).

If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error. -- John Kenneth Galbraith