Flying without Fuel
An experimental solar-powered airplane completed its first successful journey on June 5th: a 20-hour transcontinental flight from Madrid to Rabat, Morocco’s capital city.
Morocco was the chosen destination of this soon-to-be-famous flight because of the country’s demonstrated interest in solar energy. Morocco recently launched a next-level solar energy program which will radically decrease their reliance on fossil fuels. The country aims to produce 2,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020.
The aircraft is the first of a kind. It sports the same impressive wingspan of a Boeing 777 but with 12,000 solar cells arranged across them. These solar panels charge large batteries which allow the plane to fly at night as well as during daylight hours. Because the plane is so light, it can (so far) only fly in ideal weather conditions. That said, the plane has successfully climbed to 28,000 feet and reached speeds over 75mph, with its average cruising speed being just half of that.
The “new and improved” version of this airplane will debut by 2014 with an exciting round-the-world flight with five stops—and even more exciting is that all this will be done with a miniscule carbon-footprint, if any at all.
Image: “Aeroplane” by Vox Efx on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing