81.5-Hour Solar Flight – Best in Class

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Following Andre’ Borschberg’s record-breaking endurance and distance flight in Solar Impulse last month, the accomplishment of a group of Swiss students and their planned trans-Atlantic, solar-powered autonomous flight are equally worthy of consideration. With a much smaller budget than Solar Impulse, the students are planning a 5,000 kilometer (3,100 mile) flight from Bell Island, Canada to Lisbon, Portugal, a seven-day test of self-guided navigation and autonomous airmanship.  Recent achievements by the team suggest that success will come from good design and careful planning. Last month, their AtlantikSolar 2 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle made its first 24-hour flight.  (The team generously acknowledges American Alan Cocconi’s 48-hour, solar-powered flight with his 13-kilogram (28.6 pound) So Long in 2005.) Only two weeks later, the …

Facebook Unveils a Very Big, Very Light Electric Flying Wing

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is intent on providing at least basic Internet services to everyone in the world, even if means creating his own air force to accomplish that lofty goal. March 27, 2014, he shared his overall plan, including a large fleet of airplanes that would loiter in the stratosphere, beaming high-speed Internet connections to one and all. Just a few days ago, Zuckerberg announced the completion of the first full-scale aircraft for this grand plan, the Aquila.  Aquila has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, but weighs in at around 400 kilograms (880 pounds).  Apparently built in England by his recently acquired team of aeronautical experts, Aquila will be able to stay in the air for months at a …

Titan Aerospace and Its Low-Flying Satellites

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Ken Rentmeester, a regular reader of the blog, shared a news item from the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Spectrum.   Calling Titan Aerospace’s Solara unmanned aircraft “atmospheric satellites,” the article gives a brief history of solar-powered craft, including the Boucher brothers’ Sunrise I, the first solar-powered airplane in 1974, Paul MacCready Jr.’s first piloted solar-powered flight in 1980, and the current world’s endurance record for unmanned, solar-powered flight  by the QinetiQ Zephry in 2010. That airplane follows the look of the Boucher’s early effort, and Titan’s examples look a great deal like scaled-up versions of FAI F5-type models which rely on electric self-launching, rapid climbs and extreme flight capabilities to win contests. Despite great successes such as Zephyr’s, …