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Piloting Into the Future: Solar Impulse

July 7, 2013

Solar impulse is a single-person aircraft that depends entirely upon solar energy for power. It employs no fossil fuel power once it is up in the air. As a result, the aircraft is a platform for technological innovation: structurally, it marks the first time mass-produceable carbon fiber composites are being used, along with ultra-light thin ply technology. The high-efficiency (22.7%) solar cells are the thickness of a human hair, and the LED landing lights were designed with the assistance of Swiss watchmaker Omega. “Intelligent fibers” stabilize the pilot’s body temperature, and personalized diets have been developed by Nestlé Health Science to ensure pilot nutrition. In fact, the list of innovations seems endless, and underscores the technical complexity of creating, constructing and flying an aircraft with “the wingspan of a jumbo jet (63.4 m/ ~208 ft), the weight of a car (1600 kg/ ~3527 lbs.) and the average power of a scooter over 24 hours.” Just a few weeks ago, in fact, a Brazilian aviation official told me of how he and his colleagues were monitoring the Solar Impulse experience, confident that there were glimpses into the future of flying to be gained by studying the lessons of this venture. Text and Image via FORBES. Continue THERE

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