A solar powered plane named the solar impulse managed to fly in 18 hours and 18 minutes non stop from San Francisco to phoenix. This feat was achieved without a single drop of fuel. The plane which is designed to fly non stop for 24 hours is a test model. The team behind it is planning a non stop round the world flight with a larger model.
Solar Powered Plane Technology
The aircraft is propelled by energy collected from 12 000 solar cells built into the wings that at the same time recharge the four large lithium batteries with a storage capacity equivalent to a Tesla electric car. The batteries allow it to fly after sunset.
The lightweight design and wingspan allow the plane to conserve energy, but make it vulnerable to weather conditions. It cannot fly in strong wind, fog, rain or clouds. The plane can climb to 8 534m and flies at an average of 69 km/h.
The Solar Impulse has already flown over Europe and Morocco, before it arrived in the U.S in February. This flight over San Francisco was its third and final test flight before its cross-country journey.
Solar Powered Future ?
Commercial solar powered flights are not foreseeable for the near or distant future, but this project shows what can be achieved with solar power and battery storage.