Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation Earth Power

Solar-Powered Ultralight To Try 24-Hour Flight 104

Posted by kdawson
from the mehr-licht dept.
blair1q writes "When the solar aircraft Solar Impulse lifts off from an airfield in Switzerland on a sunny day at the end of June, it will begin the first ever manned night flight on a plane propelled exclusively by power it collects from the sun. Former Swiss Air Force pilot Andre Borschberg and round-the-world balloonist Bertrand Piccard developed the aircraft, and Borschberg will be the pilot for this mission. 'The flight will require a lot of attention and concentration — the plane doesn't have an auto-pilot, it has to be flown for 24 hours straight.' For him, the most exciting part of the venture is 'being on the plane during the day and seeing the amount of energy increasing instead of decreasing as on a normal aircraft.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Solar-Powered Ultralight To Try 24-Hour Flight

Comments Filter:
  • by For a Free Internet (1594621) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @04:26AM (#32588562)

    Today the answer to everything seems to be solar power. But before we all get swept up in this fad, let's consider. For every action, there is an equal opposite reaction, said Albert Einstien. Every time yu use up sun rays, you take away energy from the sun. Do these enviro-hippies want to burn out the source of all life and live on a dark ball of ice? They don't care, they are too hopped up on Italian marijuana to think about the consequences of their "innovations." Let's stick to what works, good, clean natural coal power. God bless America!

    • I am sure Leonard Nimoy would agree. This is a very dangerous project.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rivalz (1431453)

      Instead of Coal or Solar Power they should create a Boat that Sucks up the water out of the ocean and thanks to BP has oil particles mixed in a high enough concentration to run on a hybrid oil/ocean water mixture forever. Thanks BP!

      • by sheph (955019)
        Hey, free fuel. You might be on to something there. Obable said he want's to try something new. This fits that bill just fine.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Do these enviro-hippies want to burn out the source of all life and live on a dark ball of ice?

      Yeah, man. It's too damned hot here, the temperature tomorrow is going to be in the nineties. I say let's suck that thing dry, or at least until it's not quite so warm.

      They don't care, they are too hopped up on Italian marijuana to think about the consequences of their "innovations."

      Yeah, man, those Italians grow some killer shit!

      God bless America!

      God bless Italy!!!

    • For every action, there is an equal opposite reaction, said Albert Einstien.

      For every action, there is a Jackson, said Mike Nelson.

    • Don't worry, at night it will run on moonlight so the drain will be split evenly between the moon and the sun.

    • by karnal (22275) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @11:30AM (#32591544)

      For every action, there is an equal opposite reaction, said Albert Einstien.

      Newton's sitting in the corner glaring at you.

    • by Ksevio (865461) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @03:25PM (#32594528) Homepage

      One summer I was working at a college and was wearing a hard hat while I was going to check something at a construction site. As I was heading along a public street, some guy with a big beard and rainbow hat and shirt came up and started asking if I knew anything about solar power. I told him I did, and he worriedly asked if it was "sucking in the sun".

      I told him that it was safe because it would be wasted if we didn't save it and he seemed very relieved that science wasn't going to use it all up. He promised to talk to me again so I quickly requested to work at a different site.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How about soaring and using ridge lift? Ridge lift has been long used by glider pilots for cross-country flights. This planes seems to be a good enough sailplane. I has large aspect ratio wings and lift to drag ratio is probably decent as well, even though it does not look very streamlined, but it the ratio of the lift to drag that matters and this thing has a lot of lift.

    Combined, solar and thermal energy (i.e. the energy of thermal air updraft) would yield a plane that could stay in the air forever.

    • Oh god no (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @04:41AM (#32588628) Homepage Journal

      I had a peek at TFA so I could comment. This thing would fall apart in a thermal. Ridge lift means flying fast to avoid flying into the rotor behind the hill. Its not uncommon to pull a couple of Gs flying into and out of a thermal and this aircraft doesn't look up to it to me.

      My guess is they are waiting for still air before they fly it. Look at the size of those control surfaces. Sure it will have a high LD but at 30 knots or so.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by kyoorius (16808)
        Something that big and fragile will have to be launched in still air, but as the ground heats up in the afternoon, there will definitely be thermals popping off. Ridge lift is works down low, but will not likely be used in this mission (that would be cheating!). The thermals, however definitely will affect the flight. Up high (2000+ ft above the ground) there are often large patches of big lift and also sink (1000 feet per minute up or down is typical). The skill of the pilot's ability to read the ground an
        • I suppose the thing which bothers me about thermals is the rough air getting in and out. Thermals are surrounded by sink. A big, fragile aircraft could be in lift and sink at the same time and be subject to structural problems.

          • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Remeber that usually when entering a thermal one is flying at the McCready interthermal crusie speed, which accentuates the roughness of the sink at the edges of a thermal.(Which for the non glider pilots is like driving over cobble stones) This aircraft flying at minimum sink most of the time would not be disturbed as much.

            It would be interesting to know what the aircraft is stressed to. Normal sailplanes are around +5g -2.6g. I doubt this would be any less than +3g.

            Ac due to mods.

            Falconhell

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by c0lo (1497653)

      Combined, solar and thermal energy (i.e. the energy of thermal air updraft) would yield a plane that could stay in the air forever.

      [grin... quite a large one] I like the flying forever concept.
      And what a wonderful idea: dig some huge bores through the Earth crust and let the planes sore into the night using geothermal. Alternatively, lit/maintain some huge fires to create some constant lift around the globe and suddenly the aviation is no longer affected by oil prices... Errr... wait...

      • by vadim_t (324782) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @05:16AM (#32588770) Homepage

        Thermal != geothermal.

        Nobody said anything about digging holes, or setting up fires. There exist natural regions [wikipedia.org] of hot and cold air in the atmosphere that gliders take advantage of.

        • Not many in Switzerland I suspect, even in the summer.

          • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @05:34AM (#32588868)
            It's not a matter of temperature, but temperature difference. I bet they have thermals in the summer and the winter.
            • by Gubbe (705219) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @06:27AM (#32589092)

              What everyone seems to ignore is that ridge lift has little to do with thermals.
              Thermals are streams of warmer air rising up through colder air and caused by temperature differences, just as the parent mentions.
              Ridge lift on the other hand is caused by wind encountering a slope and having to move up to get over it, thus creating an upwards vector that can be used by gliders to soar.
              The wind that creates ridge lift is of course ultimately caused by air moving in to balance pressure differences, which are formed by air being displaced by temperature differences, but that doesn't mean that ridge lift is the same thing as a thermal.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Vihai (668734)
            You are so wrong here! Switzerland is fantastic for soaring, *especially* in summer.
            • Do tell. Maybe I was led astray by watching glider pilots in the UK. They head for the nearest bit of ridge lift. Never heard of them thermaling.

    • Simple answer to your question: This is a test flight only. the goal is to fly around the word with this thing. Good luck ridge lift over the oceans (where they have to fly 24h or more without landing)

      -S

  • Official website (Score:3, Informative)

    by space_in_your_face (836916) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @04:49AM (#32588668)
    The Official Solar Impulse website [solar-impulse.epfl.ch] at epfl [www.epfl.ch]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not that I mind a bit of ego-wanking.

    But human flight in this is limited by the pilot's endurance, so a theoretically indefinite duration is good for no more than 48 hours or so in practice.

    The same concept, but with remote/autonomous* control, yields really indefinite-loiter UAVs -- a much more practical creature.

    *Yes, I'm aware full autonomous control isn't feasible now, and begs for skynet jokes. But some automation for station-keeping without 100% human intervention is possible and highly desirable....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Iamthecheese (1264298)
      24 hours != indefinite. I didn't RTFA but I would bet my left testicle that it will start the flight with full batteries and end with nearly depleted ones. The REAL test will be when energy levels and consumables like lubricant are about the same before and after 24 hours in flight.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        24 hours != indefinite. I didn't RTFA but I would bet my left testicle that it will start the flight with full batteries and end with nearly depleted ones. The REAL test will be when energy levels and consumables like lubricant are about the same before and after 24 hours in flight.

        FTFA: "Solar Impulse will lift off from an airfield in Switzerland, on a sunny day sometime at the end of June. It will then fly around, charging the solar cells on the plane's wings, in a bid to store enough energy for the electric motors to last until dawn... If it proves a success, the Solar Impulse team will attempt to go even further. The ultimate aim is to push the frontier of renewable solar energy. In two years' time, the plane will set off on its first manned transatlantic solar flight, followed in

        • by MooUK (905450)

          I suspect taking off will significantly drain the batteries in the first place.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Which could be charged by leaving it sit out the day before. Did you expect it to get enough power to take off, right from the panels?

            • by MooUK (905450)

              Not at all.

              My point was that, even starting with full batteries (which it would be stupid not to), as soon as it's in the air it will have drained them plenty. Hence the flying around recharging for the night.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      But human flight in this is limited by the pilot's endurance, so a theoretically indefinite duration is good for no more than 48 hours or so in practice.

      It's to test the design. Normally, I would think that the pilot might land the thing and sleep once in a while.

  • I get tired if I drive for more than 4 hours straight. When you get tired, you make mistakes. I can't even imagine driving continously for 24 hours without making an error. Surely this is dangerous, both for pilot and anyone he might crashland on?
    • Ultralights are really flimsy. It would probably just give you a nasty bruise - and only if you weren't wearing a hat.

  • I can't believe that they couldn't allow even one of those inflatable ones [tikaro.com] because of the weight...
    • I can't believe that they couldn't allow even one of those inflatable ones [tikaro.com] because of the weight...

      Probably the sexual harassment issue. You can't pay just anybody to keep in inflated.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @06:07AM (#32588992) Homepage Journal
    I just have this to say to you Mr. Picard, "make it so!"
  • by billius (1188143) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @07:03AM (#32589236)
    I'm guessing he's going to use the same method Superman uses to stay awake and vigilant [smbc-comics.com] all that time.
  • If it was not spelled out in the rules I would pick a place further to the north where the sun does not set at this time of the year. Then they could get a full 24 hours of sunlight to drive the motors.

    When the sun goes down the aircraft will either need to glide or operate off of power from batteries. If the sun "did not" go down for 24 hours you could sustain flight without batteries or by depending upon gliding. Then the only limit is how long the pilot(s) could remain in the air.

    • by tibit (1762298)

      I'd be worried that low incidence angle lowers the available energy flux to useless levels...

      • by robot256 (1635039)

        You can get quite a lot of solar energy at upper latitudes, so long as your panels are pointed sideways (at the sun) instead of up. Also if there is snow you can capture the reflection off the snow and exceed the direct sunlight capture rate. I am working on a solar-powered rover to run on the Greenland ice sheet and our tests show even a panel facing away from the sun will collect 30% of nominal power from reflections alone.

        But pointing all your solar panels sideways would be kind of hard on an airplane

    • Just fly all the way around the world in your 24 hours. That's the easy way to stay in sunlight.

  • ... it's magic!

    Not in the sense it's something beyond the laws of Physics but something we could only dream of just dozens of years ago.

    It's exciting to live in this era.

  • I'm guessing it only works when you launch in the morning and fly west, seeing how you'd get more daylight hours :) --edfardos
    • by pdhenry (671887)
      If you're not flying really fast (a bit over 1000 miles/hr) you'd still run into issues as daylight outran you. At least when flying east the night would be shorter...
  • They are planning the first night flight to be close to the summer solstice. [wikipedia.org] I suspect they will conduct their initial testing during while the day's are longer, and continue testing as they get shorter.

    If they can fly all night north of 22 degrees latitude, and past the fall equinox, I will be extremely impressed.
  • I imagine if you fly west during the day and east during the night you could stay powered a long time. I'd still like to see someone build an unmanned craft that can stay in flight indefinitely powered by Sun and battery.

  • The fact that it's going to be a full moon won't hurt! :-)

The bogosity meter just pegged.

Working...