Solar Impulse 2, the New Model That Will Keep Beating Records
You probably have heard about Solar Impulse, an airplane that has crossed the Atlantic Ocean and the United States from coast to coast by using only solar energy to fuel itself. Now, the team of Swiss engineers responsible by that project has revealed a new and improved version of this plane, Solar Impulse 2, that can make history by becoming the first solar plane to travel around the world.
According to pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, also responsible for the project, due to the fact that Solar Impulse 2 does not use any conventional fuel to power itself, it can fly for an undetermined time. During the presentation of the new model, they mentioned several improvements that make Solar Impulse 2 more efficient and more autonomous.
The improvement with the bigger impact is the number of solar cells, which has increased by 6,000 in this model, from 12,000 to 18,000, over the plane's roof and wings. They feed four electric engines, each with 17,5 horse power, that allow for Solar Impulse 2 to reach a minimum speed of 35 km/h. Also, the plane's width has grown, from 63.4 to 72 meters, and the fuselage, built with carbon fiber, is lighter - the plane weighs about 2.5 tons.
The journey around the world is set to begin in March 2015 and take around five months, starting in the Persian Gulf and passing through India and the Pacific Ocean. During the trip, the two pilots will relay themselves inside the 3.8 square meters cabin, which has just enough space to store food, water, parachutes and other minor equipments.
This new model is an improvement of Solar Impulse, the plane that, back in 2012, has broken 12 world records, including being the first solar plane to travel across two continents during the night.
Even though this kind of technologies is still under development, such projects are important to determine the feasibility of solar energy to power airplanes, which can become a reality in a few decades.
About Diogo Costa
Biologist, writer, tech guy, musician and photographer. Only the first is for real, though.