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Solar Planes – A New Technology In The Aviation Industry
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October 25, 2020

Solar Planes – A New Technology In The Aviation Industry

The 21st century has brought about various breath-taking achievements in the world of technology. From machine learning upgrades to smart homes and now planes powered by solar batteries.

We can’t but marvel at this great innovation first launched in 2010 and called the Solar Impulse-1. Powered to last for 26-hours, it was handled by Borschberg, who took off from a Switzerland airbase. Over the years, various advancements have been made regarding this technology, but it has been found only to accommodate a single person that is the pilot. This is because of the weight associated with the solar batteries and panels used in powering it.

More insight into Solar-powered planes

Solar Impulse-2 was made to circumnavigate the Earth in 2015; it made the flight from Al-Bateen airport in march and was expected to complete a round trip by August. Amidst unscheduled stops and technically-induced delays, the journey across the Earth was completed in 16 and a half months. Made in Switzerland the Solar Impulse Project became the first aerial flight to sail around the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar panel energy to make the flight possible.

This innovation was developed due to the greenhouse emissions that result from jet-fuels, so in a bid to reduce the environmental effects of these fuels, electrically powered planes were the best route to take as they need zero fuel for optimal performance. In 2016, a second solar plane was flown across the pacific-ocean and landed on the Moffett Airfield in California. Designed with over 17,000 solar cells, the aircraft is built to carry only 2 tons of weight. One of the challenges facing this technology is that it doesn’t have the capability to carry more than one or two passengers. These make it difficult for solar planes to be adopted as a commercial means of transportation.

The main issue lies with the batteries, which store less energy per mass required to power the plane and, as such, requires more weight, which subsequently affects the weight of the aircraft.  Compared to fuel-powered airplanes like Boeing-737 that can accommodate over 400 passengers at a go, there is still a long way to go with solar planes. The Solar Impulse-2 even has solar storage, as it has a set of 4 lithium-polymer batteries, which enable crucial electricity to save for night time flights. It only possesses a top speed of 43miles per hour, and this is relatively low.

The technology has many potentials, but the main issue of trying to balance the weight and the speed still needs a lot of work. According to test researchers, a gallon of jet fuels carries more than 25 times the same energy packed in a lithium-ion battery of similar weight.

Over the years, firms have developed more solar-powered planes; an example is SolarFlight, founded by Eric Scott Raymond, who began flying early. He was one the pioneers of the Sunseeker, a solar plane that went on to break all previous records set by solar-powered planes.Their team are now on the sixth solar plane in production.

Even though industrialists are making improvements on fuel efficiency i.e., ways to reduce emissions from fuel combustions. The solar planes are projected as a long term goal because it eradicates any form of environmental hazards and more importantly opens the door for a more elaborate technological breakthrough in the commercial aviation industry.

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