Solar-Powered Airplane Skims the Skies Via 11,000+ Solar Panels

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.

solar powered plane

Image via 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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  • Gene @ Diy Solar

    We are on the verge of making oil obsolete for transportation. Oil is already obsolete for ground vehicles. We have already proven that cars, trucks and trains can run on electricity alone. This solar powered plane is beginning to prove that we can also run planes on electricity. The only reason we are still using vast quantities of oil is because big oil has made enormous efforts to destroy the electric car industry.