A month ago I talked about our next solar demo project. After a month’s reflection, I’ve decide that one is not grandiose enough, so onto the next one. That’s right a solar powered airplane, where there is no margin for error. Just today the plane flew across the Mediterranean Sea from Spain to Morocco. One beguiling aspect of the trip is that it took off in the dark and will land in the dark. That’s right, a purely solar plane is running on battery power! I am not sure if the plane is like a glider and can fly without power, but flying a solar plane in the dark seems more dangerous than flying a fuel-powered plane in the dark. It is not readily apparent from the picture below, but the wingspan on this thing is huge. Check out some more pictures of it here to get a sense of scale.
The designers are gunning for an around-the-world trip in 2014 with a new and improved plane. They started work on this in 2003. I think if we start working right now, we should be able to beat them to the punch by a couple of months. We just need to learn: aeronautical engineering, piloting, aerial navigation, composite manufacturing, and advanced battery technology. On second thought, maybe we can’t get it done that quick.