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Solar Impulse lands in California after Pacific crossing

 
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Mark



Joined: 13 Dec 2007
Posts: 882
Location: NW England

PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 2:00 pm    Post subject: Solar Impulse lands in California after Pacific crossing Reply with quote

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36122618

The solar-powered aeroplane Solar Impulse has landed in Silicon Valley, California, after a three-day flight over the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii. High winds delayed the landing at Moffett Airfield, Mountain View, as pilot Bertrand Piccard flew in a holding pattern off the coast. "The Pacific is done," he declared just before landing. The latest leg of the round-the-world flight was the riskiest yet because of the lack of emergency landing sites. Fellow pilot Andre Borschberg hugged Mr Piccard when he stepped from the cockpit. Google boss Sergey Brin was also at the airfield to greet him. "It was a beautiful landing, we were right there watching," he said in a clip tweeted by the plane's media team.

All from the sun
"You know there was a moment in the night, I was watching the reflection of the moon on the ocean and I was thinking, 'I'm completely alone in this tiny cockpit and I feel completely confident'," Mr Piccard told reporters afterwards. "And I was really thankful to life for bringing me this experience; it's maybe one of the most fantastic experiences of life I've had." He predicted that, 50 years from now, electric aeroplanes would be "transporting up to 50 people". With 17,000 photovoltaic cells on its top surfaces, the plane gets all its energy from the sun. These power the craft's propellers during the day but also charge batteries that the vehicle's motors can then call on during the night.

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PS_RalphW



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 5260
Location: Cambridge

PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The flight from China to Hawaii cooked the plane's batteries. It has been a major rebuild before they could continue. They are probably over the worst, but does it really count as the same plane if half the mass has to be replaced on route with parts shipped in?

Sorry to nitpick.
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Mark



Joined: 13 Dec 2007
Posts: 882
Location: NW England

PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't see this ever totally replacing jet fuel, however if planes could be redesigned to incorporate solar panels and reduce consumption, by say 10%, it could be a small step in the right direction...
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PS_RalphW



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 5260
Location: Cambridge

PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2016 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Solar Impulse is a low speed high altitude glider with a tiny payload (pilot). It can only keep itself in the air long enough to travel long distance by utilising the very low air density and high solar radiation at very high altitude above all clouds. and using prevailing winds to cover a lot of the actual range.

It can only take off and land in very good weather conditions because it is so fragile.

The surface area of any conventional aircraft would be so small that any PV energy collected would be tiny over the duration of the flight, and would never pay back the extra energy required to lift the extra weight to cruising altitude, let alone cover the cost and complexity of a hybrid power source.

Solar could be useful on hybrid airship designs, which are slow and have large surface area.
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