Flying around the World Without Fuel
It is the first of many experimental aircraft using solar energy to fly around the world. The aircraft, Solar Impulse, began in 2003 with the sponsor of many European companies giving $148 million to the project. The next step was to locate and hire 80 engineers and designing an aircraft. This took another seven years and by 2010, had one. Building it began in San Francisco, CA.
The aircraft has 208 ft. long wings with a white gloss finish, a glider, for the most part. The challenge was to keep the aircraft aloft during cloudy and night. So, like an electric car, the aircraft has four lithium polymer batteries that store energy gathered from 12,000 solar cells that line the wing and stabilizer. Each of the cells cost $200. During daylight, it stores energy and climbs to 30,000 ft. After sunset, it then glides down using the energy until dawn.
The aircraft is composed of mostly carbon and honeycombed material, while the wing's skin is carbon material that is lighter than copy machine paper.Because of the material used, the aircraft weighs merely 3500 lbs., about the average weight of a car that is assembled in 10 sections.
In the air, the aircraft is nimble and bird-like, averaging a speed of 45 mph, its 71 ft. long body and four 10 hp electric motors float and travel almost effortlessly for the two pilots.