This month has seen two major developments in the aviation world, and both had to do with solar powered flight. On July 7, a manned aircraft took a 26 hour flight in Switzerland. The solar cells lining the super lightweight wings provided power during the day and charged batteries that were used at night. The team working on the aircraft is hoping to fly the plane around the world just on solar power.
The following week, the Zephyr solar powered aircraft took the record for the longest endurance of an unmanned aerial vehicle by flying for 7 days non-stop at a US Army base in Arizona. This craft is attempting to prove that you can have a solar powered craft that can loiter in one location indefinitely.
Looking at both the manned and unmanned craft I was hit with the resemblance to the Wright brother’s first plane. Both planes are super light weight and appear to be very fragile. However, these flights are very exciting when you consider that the Wright bothers first flew just over a 100 years ago in 1903. Imagine what progress over the next 100 years will bring. I hope that one day my kids fly across the country on a commercial flight that uses no fossil fuels.
Posted by Mark Norfolk