Monday - Oct 21, 2019

The Solar Powered-Plane That’ll Fly Around The World


solar plane

Planes have always been things that motivated the most adventurous of humans to take dangerous trips way up in the air. In 2014, those people would be Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, two men from Europe who worked together to create the Solar Impulse, a plan fully powered by solar energy.

As we watch that gliding plane with very long wings float in the air, one has to wonder how all of this works. The wings are actually made of special solar cells, 17 200 to be precise, with nothing really backing them up so they’re really all that’s forming the sides of the plane. Most parts on the Solar Impulse are calculated in grams and pounds as the whole thing is extremely light – about the weight of a car or SUV – and is able to take off the ground using no assist but the energy of our one and precious star.

From a Few Inches to Actual Flights

Lately, the Solar Impulse has been traveling for hours on end in the sky, but that hasn't always been the case. Five years ago, in 2009, the plane underwent its first tests and barely lifted a few inches off the ground. However, that was enough to motivate Andre and Bertrand to go back to the hangar and build the model that's today called the Solar Impulse 2.

This new model accomplished much more impressive things. Storms and other possible disruptions put aside, this model is pretty much able to stay up in the air forever, taking in energy sunrise after sunrise to power its battery and engine during a full cycle. The German pilot, Markus Scherdel, says that the sunrise brings a new hope every morning, but that's pretty much only a metaphor as the plane is well-equipped to make all the trips it wants to without stopping.

The team's next project is a 20 days 20 nights adventure that's recently been announced for 2015. This will take the team even further in the spotlight and make them accomplish pretty much whatever they please. The technology on the Solar Impulse could be used for many more purposes than just simply providing eco-friendly flights. Many industries are looking at this technology to lift things off the ground in a way that's not damaging for the environment.

Never Ending Flight, Never Ending Ambition

There's the product, but there's also the story of the people behind it. Bertrand Piccard comes from a family that’s no stranger to these kinds of adventures. Both his father and grandfather, named Jacques and Auguste respectively, came back from some pretty dangerous trips in submarines and air balloons decades ago. His grandfather Auguste is considered by NASA as the first man in space and to see the curve of the earth. These inventors and adventurers are more often than not inspired by their previous adventures, Andre stating that he had the idea for the Solar Impulse as he almost ran out of fuel in one of his balloon adventures, promising he would do something without it on his next project.

The Solar Impulse project will now move on to even more serious endeavours, such as literally flying for days on end. These will be some unprecedented journeys for pilots, who can barely move in the cabin of these small planes. Surely, everyone wishes them luck, and more of the world will be watching as this plane lifts off again, without having any negative impact on the environment whatsoever.