Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… well, it is a plane, but one quite different from the conventional steel birds of today. Solar Impulse of Switzerland has shed light on the HB-SIA, a single-seater airplane whose sole power source is everyone’s favorite burning star: the sun.
Last December, the HB-SIA, whose wingspan is approximately twice that of the plane’s lightweight body, took to the air for its maiden flight, and the results were admittedly underwhelming: the bird flew a scant 350 meters and rose a single meter from the ground. But by mid-2010, Solar Impulse is confident their creation will be capable of flying 36 hours nonstop. Nestled within the HB-SIA are a quartet of electric engines powered by “11,628 SunPower Corporation photovoltaic (PV) cells mounted on the wings and horizontal tail area, giving a coverage of 200 square meters,” according to Physorg.
Given that only approximately 12 hours of each day are spent in sunlight, a good chunk of the HB-SIA’s forthcoming test flight will be spent in darkness. How will she navigate the blackness of the skies? Using electricity stored in a set of lithium polymer rechargeable batteries.
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