Solar Impulse 2 Batteries – Better than We Thought

Dean Sigler Batteries, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

What happened to Solar Impulse 2’s batteries on those long five days and nights over the Pacific?  It took months of enforced downtime in Hawaii to have new batteries made, sent from Korea, installed, tested, and flown again.  Could the plane have completed the flight on the original batteries? Kokam, manufacturer of the airplane’s cells, has released new information that provides details of the drive system and relieves a few lingering anxieties.  An over-riding concern was that batteries overheated on the Japan to Hawaii part of the mission, topping out at 50 degrees Centigrade (122 degrees Fahrenheit) – above their design temperature.  Your editor has thought deeply about what Andre’ Borschberg must have gone through every day of the five …

Solar Impulse Makes a Final Landing

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Bertrand Piccard closed out the over-year-long endurance test of man and machine, landing in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, where the 17-leg journey began over a year ago. Landing at night in the glow of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center, the largest mosque in the UAE, and greeted by fellow pilot Andre’ Borschberg, the project’s sponsor HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, and a large throng in western and Middle Eastern garb, the flight climaxed not only an aerial adventure, but an opportunity to share multiple cultures and teach thousands of children and youth about alternative energy and the way to a green future for all. Whether the promises made at the United Nations and at COP21 in Paris …

Solar Impulse Word of the Day – Penultimate

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Headlines all over the world are sharing the word of the day – penultimate, meaning the next to the last* – in this case the next to last flight for Solar Impulse 2. The Guardian newspaper explained, “After setting off from Seville on Monday morning, the plane passed through Algerian, Tunisian, Italian and Greek airspace, and flew over the Giza Pyramids before touching down at Cairo airport at around 7.10am (5.10am GMT). Its support crew cheered as the plane, no heavier than a car but with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, landed, and trailed after it on bicycles.” Which brings up a question – why are the guys on foot outrunning the guys on the expensive electric bicycles? Certainly, …

Boeing Adds Solar Winglets to Its Solar High-Flyer

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Despite having a wing, horizontal tail, and fuselage top full of solar cells, Solar Impulse 2 needs long days and short nights to make it through the dark periods between recharging.  Even Eric and Irena Raymond’s SunSeeker Duo, a more practical machine, performs only day-long flights so far. Part of this is the nature of sunlight and solar cells, both of which are limited in small areas.  Despite the fact that every hour, each square meter of the upper atmosphere receives 1.367kWh of solar energy, and National Geographic claims that “Every hour the sun beams onto Earth more than enough energy to satisfy global energy needs for an entire year,” it’s hard to harness that energy on a relatively small …

Solar Impulse 2 Gets a Jet Escort

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Following a fairly non-eventful crossing of the Atlantic, Bertrand Piccard was greeted by a welcoming formation of Casa C-101 Aviojets, Spain’s Patrulla Águila flight demonstration team. After three days and nights in the air, Piccard landed in the Spanish sunrise, also finalizing efforts to establish the International Committee of Clean Technology (ICCT), whose goal is to continue Solar Impulse’s legacy, “promoting concrete energy efficient solutions in order to solve many of the challenges facing society today.” While “Until recently, protecting the environment was expensive and threatened our society’s comfort, mobility and growth. Today, thanks to modern clean technologies, the energy consumption of the world, and therefore the C02 emissions, could be divided by two, while creating jobs and enhancing profits. …

EnergyOr Ups the Ante for Endurance

Dean Sigler Fuel Cells, Hybrid Aircraft, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Staying airborne for more than an hour or two might seem like a huge leap for battery-powered electric aircraft.  Inspired designers like Eric Raymond have been able to use solar cells to extend their flights to near-perpetual states.  A large craft like Solar Impulse 2 remains in flight for up to five successive days and nights only through careful energy management and flight planning.  Researchers are looking at hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to batteries, with the hopes of achieving greater endurance. One company, EnergyOr, has developed two still small fuel cells to power their rotary- and fixed-wing drones, setting several records in the process.  With payloads and maximum takeoff weights that enable carrying a 4K camera or large …

Green Aviation at COP21

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Solar Power 0 Comments

COP21, the Congress of Parties 21 – the 21st gathering of nations and organizations working toward an agreement on reducing greenhouse gases, has concluded with what many conclude to be a historic turn from fossil fuels to cleaner, greener means of powering the world’s economy.  At a gala “SolutionsCOP21 – Celebrate the Champions Night” at the Grand Palais on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, leaders in demonstrating clean energy solutions were honored and awarded. Globe-straddling solar aviation and electric commuter helicopters showed a few of the environmentally conscientious directions aviation has taken and in which sustainable flight can take flight in the near future. Eraole, Mignet’s Formula Redefined Eraole, with its first motor run at COP21, is a tandem-winged cruiser that …

Solar Impulse Down, But Not Out

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Following its cliff-hangar five-day flight from Nagoya, Japan to Kalaeloa Airport, Hawaii, Solar Impulse is undergoing an extended period of tender loving care, dedicated rebuilding of its battery packs and insightful reflection on how to avoid future issues. Landing July 3, 2015, Pilot André Borschberg broke the world records for distance along a course (6,825.4 kilometers – 4,231.5 miles), Straight distance, and Duration for solar aviation, as well as the world record for the longest solo flight ever (80 hours and 5,663 km. – 3,511 miles), according to the Solar Impulse web site. If all had gone according to plan, Bertrand Piccard would have hopped on board a few days later and headed for the United States on the second leg of the …

 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 …

Solar Impulse Stays in Hawaii until Next Year

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

A sign on the climb from Salem, Oregon to the Redmond/Bend area indicates that no gas or services exist for the next 52 miles.  It’s worth heeding, since the route goes over mountain passes, and in winter can require tire chains and sometimes long passages behind a snow plow.  Range anxiety happens even for those of us still plugging along in fossil-fueled vehicles. One of the ostensible advantages of Solar Impulse’s ability to charge itself, is that it has an endless supply of solar fuel and its batteries can make it through the night – depending on the relative lengths of day and night.  Making the longest flight of the round-the-world trip at high latitudes and during summer months was …