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Solar Plane Flight Proves the Power of the Sun

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solar plane
What would you say if I told you that the concept of solar planes is actually a reality? What if I said that there is a plane that can fly for hours – day and night – without burning a single ounce of fuel? Well it’s true.

On June 21st, a Swiss based team announced that that its plane, Solar Impulse, had attempted to fly from the Morocco capital of Rabat to the Saraha Desert, and to ultimately land at Ouarzazate. The flight was an attempt to show support for the world’s largest solar-thermal plant being built in the Sahara.

Unfortunately, the plane had to turn back after hitting unexpectedly strong headwinds. The next day, pilot Bertrand Piccard took off again from Rabat, flew the solar plane over the Atlas Mountains, and successfully landed at Ouarzazate.

However, the flight to the solar plant in the Sarah desert wasn’t the most impressive news to come out of this team. The real story was the historic, 2,500 kilometer flight to Morocco earlier in June.

The flight proved to the world that solar power has the capability to perform real work, and may offer the world real solutions to cut back on the consumption of fossil fuels.

A Project With Something to Prove

Bertrand Piccard wasn’t only the pilot of the flight, he was also one of the founders of Solar Impulse. Along with Andre Borschberg, the two Swiss men – both pilots – launched one of the most ambitious solar projects in 2003.

After obtaining financing from private companies – including Solvay, Deutsche Bank, Omega and Schindler – the two men put together a technical team do develop and produce the world’s first fuel-less solar plane.

The HB-SIA has over 11,000 solar cells mounted on top of a massive wingspan of 63.4 meters. Although the plane can take off and land successfully, and it has the capacity to travel day and night for 4 to 6 days – yes, days – it does have some limitations.

Aside from the enormous wingspan (the same as an Airbus A340) required to produce lift using four brushless, 10 horsepower electric engines, and the fact that the team has set a course to circumnavigate the globe – the plane can’t travel any faster than 70 km/hr (43.5 mi/hr). It also can’t carry more than one person.

The limitations are due to the fact that the electric engines and lithium polymer battery configuration can’t provide enough power to the props to push the plane any faster, or to carry any greater weight.

However, the vision and mission of the project, according to visionary and pilot Bertrand Piccard, is not about transforming transportation overnight – it’s about telling the world that solar power is a viable option. He is quoted as telling reporters:

“Our airplane is not designed to carry passengers, but to carry a message.”

solar plane

Lessons Learned and Flying Around the World

The next generation plane, HB-SIB, is being designed built from the lessons that the team learned from HB-SIA. The new plane will be built with advanced composite materials, a larger cockpit for the longer 4 to 6 hour flights, the ability to carry a larger load, and more isolated circuitry so that rain doesn’t affect the electrical system like it did with the HB-SIA.

Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg report on their website that no one believed that the project was even possible, except for the Dassault company. Most experts thought the plane would have to be too large, the weight requirements were too small, and the plane would be nearly impossible to control once in the air.

Launched in 1999, the dream of the Solar Impulse project is finally coming to fruition. The two Swiss men are proving all of the naysayers wrong, as the plane continues to make successful, long-distance flights, running on nothing more than solar power.

If solar technologies, composite materials and electrical efficiencies continue to advance – it is possible that one day larger commercial aircraft could be drawing energy from the sun, blasting its solar energy from the sky above.

If that day comes, Bertrand and Andre will clearly be recognized in the history books as the Wright Brothers of the solar age.

References & Image Credits:
(2) Gizmodo
(3) Solar Impulse

Originally published on

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Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
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Mark Dorr grew up the son of a treasure hunter. His experiences led to working internationally in some surprising situations!
Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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