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Solar-Powered Plane Makes Runway Debut

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the endless-summer dept.

Transportation 120

MikeChino writes "The much-hyped Solar Impulse airplane just completed its first runway test, paving the way for a 20-to-25-day trip around the world next year. Conceived by Bertrand Piccard, the single-pilot plane successfully used its four solar powered motors to taxi around the runway. If all goes according to plan the plane will be able to fly day and night without fuel, signaling a bright future for solar-powered flight."

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Next up - solar warp plane (-1, Flamebait)

iamacat (583406) | more than 4 years ago | (#30210918)

Takes you to places in space AND time all with great gas millage. I hear a crew flew back to 2000 to save Republicans from extinction.

Your official guide to the Jigaboo presidency (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211318)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your apeman will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.

INSTALLING YOUR NIGGER.
You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately after unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.

CONFIGURING YOUR NIGGER
Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat

HOUSING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.

FEEDING YOUR NIGGER.
Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.

MAKING YOUR NIGGER WORK.
Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 75 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.

ENTERTAINING YOUR NIGGER.
Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include: 1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing. 2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one). 3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit. 4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood. 5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.

DISPOSAL OF DEAD NIGGERS.
Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.

COMMON PROBLEMS WITH NIGGERS - MY NIGGER IS VERY AGGRESIVE
Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?

MY NIGGER KEEPS RAPING WHITE WOMEN
They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.

WILL MY NIGGER ATTACK ME?
Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).

MY NIGGER BITCHES ABOUT ITS "RIGHTS" AND "RACISM".
Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.

MY NIGGER'S HIDE IS A FUNNY COLOR. - WHAT IS THE CORRECT SHADE FOR A NIGGER?
A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".

MY NIGGER ACTS LIKE A NIGGER, BUT IS WHITE.
What you have there is a "wigger". Rough crowd. WOW!

IS THAT LIKE AN ALBINO? ARE THEY RARE?
They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it. The best thing for any wigger is a dose of TNB.

MY NIGGER SMELLS REALLY BAD
And you were expecting what?

SHOULD I STORE MY DEAD NIGGER?
When you came in here, did you see a sign that said "Dead nigger storage"? .That's because there ain't no goddamn sign.

What are the implications for solar races? (1)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 4 years ago | (#30210924)

Well, a plane is just a flying car after all...

Re:What are the implications for solar races? (5, Funny)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211918)

Well, a plane is just a flying car after all...

Actually, a car is a badly designed plane. Just try driving one off a cliff, and you'll see what I mean.

Re:What are the implications for solar races?shoes (0, Troll)

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Re:What are the implications for solar races?shoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30213732)

Re:What are the implications for solar races?shoes (1)

ais523 (1172701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214618)

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Unlikely to be any search association either way, fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view. It's very unlikely that that spammer will ever get enough karma to avoid having rel=nofollow applied to all its links...

Re:What are the implications for solar races?shoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214832)

Drat. And it seemed like such a good idea.

Maybe if the replies get modded up...

Re:What are the implications for solar races? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212178)

Implications for solar car races? None. You may as well look at a sail-boat and ask "what are the implications for powerboats?". An aircraft with a large enough wing-span can stay airborne for days on end just by gliding, whereas cars tend not to move much without an engine.

Picard? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30210928)

Insert lame "Warp factor 5... Engage" kind of joke here. Then argue about how Kirk was better, or Janeway has bigger balls than both of them. Or how Sisko was just a little too gay (but boy did he leave nice coilers in the bathroom that his crewmates would sneak in if he didn't flush and... oh, you know the standard troll).

Re:Picard? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211044)

But Kirk _was_ better.

Re:Picard? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211146)

Which Kirk - William Shatner or Christopher Pine?

Better site? (1, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30210962)

Kinda interesting they didn't have the dimensions of the solar plane readily available. From the pictures it looks like the wingspan is an easy 100 feet to carry how much, one guy? Wonder how big the wings would be to carry 200 passengers, oh, and where would get the energy to carry them at 600mph? Seems to me solar and flight are fundamentally at odds simply because you need vast surface area to get the energy to reach high speeds...but then, maybe it can work, almost like you optimize

solar powered plane energy = kw * wing area meters ^ 2 - kw * motor * mass * velocity ^ 2.
and
mass = wing density * wing area meters ^ 2

would have to factor in wind resistance from the giant wings, but that's cross sectional area, I thought, that causes drag, so if you made the wings really thin...

Re:Better site? (2, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30210990)

would have to factor in wind resistance from the giant wings, but that's cross sectional area, I thought, that causes drag, so if you made the wings really thin...

If the weight ratio is too great, you could simply have two planes and suspend the pilot on a line between the wings.

Re:Better site? (3, Funny)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211154)

If the weight ratio is too great, you could simply have two planes and suspend the pilot on a line between the wings.

Probably necessary in more northern latitudes such as Europe, but in Africa I reckon one plane could easily carry the pilot.

Re:Better site? (3, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211796)

You'd need some place to put the solar panels, which will also put a lower limit on wing surface, because there's a minimum amount of energy you'll need.

Then due to this plane not exactly flying at 900 kph, you'd need short wings to prevent it from stalling due to the wind movement created by flying over a cow that's thinking about farting.

So you need a minimum wing surface, and you need a relatively short wing. Your only choice is going wide.

Now add to that that the maximum weight of the plane is obviously very limited (and you already have the pilot, so you add 300 pounds for safety). In essence those enormous wingspan cannot be supported by a structure that's internal to the wing, as that would add too much weight. So you have 3 cockpits : 1 manned, 2 unmanned. 3 planes "loosely" connected (some sort of elastic bands, apparently).

So you get this plane : it's really 3 planes connected to eachother at the wingtips. This is necessary due to low-speed flying and the need to collect energy. Before you ask about making a jetliner carrying 300 people solar-powered ... does it really need to be stated that's not going to happen ? It would need a wingspan of several miles, and would fly perhaps 100-150 kph.

The real reason these planes are getting built is their potential to replace satellites, and even cell towers. Once we have commercial autonomous planes that can keep flying for 10 years at, say, 15 km height we don't need satellites anymore. Furthermore, these planes would be satellites that have other advantages, like the fact that they can actually operate with an antenna gain less than 500 (no need for dishes). They would not introduce a significant delay (satellite communication low-earth-orbit adds somewhere near 300 msec transit time, geostationary ones add close to a second. Nobody, even non-gamers, like pingtimes more than a second).

And best of all : they're mobile. Can you imagine ? Some 3rd world or muslim dictator decides to grow some brains and steps down. The parliament votes to create a communications infrastructure, and asks $carrier to do so. Carrier launches 30 (or whatever number required) of these planes from a location deep within the united states, and 5 days later the entire country is covered in a completely functional cell phone network that does not require uplinks (beyond the planes themselves). The same network provides internet and television services. Whether a carrier needs to provide coverage in central manhattan or northeast pakistan, the infrastructure deployment process is identical : just build the plane. No permission (beyond countrywide flight permission that is), no pulling fiber, no renting roof space, no ...

And the military applications are equally great. Want to attack a country ? How about a permanent rocket launch basis in the sky that does not ever need to come down ?

Re:Better site? (-1, Offtopic)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211954)

*whooosh*

carried by an African swallow. There's another one behind carrying a coconut.

Re:Better site? (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212224)

Here's an image gallery of the plane : http://www.solvay.com/services/imagegallery/solar/airplane/0,,77566-2-0,00.htm [solvay.com]

A more technical gallery : http://www.solvay.com/services/imagegallery/solar/technicalaspects/0,,77567-2-0,00.htm [solvay.com]

The plane is called "solar impulse", btw, and it's Belgian.

Old story (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212960)

Sunrise [wikipedia.org]
The 27 lb (12 kg) unmanned AstroFlight Sunrise, the result of an ARPA contract, made the world's first solar-powered flight from Bicycle Lake, a dry lakebed on the Fort Irwin Military Reservation, on 4 November 1974. The improved Sunrise II flew on 27 September 1975 at Nellis AFB.[3][4][5]

Sunseeker
In 1990 the solar powered airplane Sunseeker successfully flew across the USA, piloted by Eric Raymond.[9] It used a small battery charged by solar cells on the wing to drive a propeller for takeoff, and then flew on direct solar power and took advantage of soaring conditions when possible.[10]

The Sunseeker II, built in 2002, was updated in 2005-2006 with a more powerful motor, larger wing, lithium battery packs and updated control electronics.[11] As of Dec, 2008 it was the only manned solar powered airplane in flying condition and is operated regularly by Solar Flight.[10] In 2009 it became the first solar-powered aircraft to cross the Alps, 99 years after the first crossing of the Alps by an aircraft.[12]

The tech been in development for a while now...

Re:Better site? (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213116)

They don't have blimps where you come from? (I almost feel bad after how well worked your idea is... sorry)

Re:Better site? (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211294)

If the weight ratio is too great, you could simply have two planes and suspend the pilot on a line between the wings.

Or you could always go with a solar powered balloon plane.

Re:Better site? (2, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211450)

suspend the pilot on a line between the wings.

What? Held under the dorsal guiding struts?

Re:Better site? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211222)

It might have a military advantage over spy satellites. If the solar plane can be made to be stealthy it could sneak in and stay around to continuously take high resolution pictures of enemy assets. Satellites can only take pictures at predictable times (that the enemy might be aware of) and another drawback is that satellites can't take continuous footage.

It could also have great scientific potential for projects where you want to watch a remote area continuously.

Re:Better site? (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211414)

the diagram in the link has the dimensions

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8367214.stm

Re:Better site? (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211630)

Kinda interesting they didn't have the dimensions of the solar plane readily available. From the pictures it looks like the wingspan is an easy 100 feet to carry how much, one guy? Wonder how big the wings would be to carry 200 passengers, oh, and where would get the energy to carry them at 600mph? Seems to me solar and flight are fundamentally at odds simply because you need vast surface area to get the energy to reach high speeds...but then, maybe it can work, almost like you optimize

solar powered plane energy = kw * wing area meters ^ 2 - kw * motor * mass * velocity ^ 2.
and
mass = wing density * wing area meters ^ 2

would have to factor in wind resistance from the giant wings, but that's cross sectional area, I thought, that causes drag, so if you made the wings really thin...

I half agree with you. Half. None of our grandchildren are ever going to fly at 600 miles per hour. There isn't enough energy, and they won't be able to afford to use it. We're burning all the cheap energy there's ever going to be, right now. A plane which could provide practical flight at one hundred miles an hour and that they could afford to use might be useful to them. I'm sceptical, though, about whether this is the right way to go about providing that - hydrogen from electrolysis of seawater looks to me a potentially better fuel, because the amount of sunlight you can capture that way isn't limited by the wing area of the aircraft and because the fuel, even if somewhat compressed, is lighter than air and aids buoyancy.

The very high ratio of exotic materials structure to payload on this aircraft represents a lot of embodied energy in itself.

Re:Better site? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212198)

I half agree with you. Half. None of our grandchildren are ever going to fly at 600 miles per hour. There isn't enough energy, and they won't be able to afford to use it.

I disagree. If they get a serious energy crunch, they'll adjust. I don't think high speed flight is going away, it might get a tad rarer for the population, but it's not going away.

Big, mostly full planes going 600 odd mph for a couple thousand miles or more are actually very fuel efficient - especially when you're looking at overseas travel and saving weeks on a cruise liner.

They're also experimenting with bio-jet fuel, they're testing it right now for B-52s.

For the land, high speed rail, a good mesh of it with 'micro-locomotives' so you're hauling the equivalent of a plane, not 10 planes, would help. I'd want at least 120 mph, so it can compete with planes. Even then, I'm not sure about the fuel efficiency. Trains can be surprisingly inefficient, mostly due to low utilization.

Insightfull my ass (4, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211744)

This guy isn't insightful, he is a twit.

Not all planes are passenger planes. This plane would be perfect for unmanned or long range observation. Carrying all your fuel aboard becomes incredibly expensive the longer your range has to be. This plane solves that by refueling constantly while inflight.

Insightful? No, short-sighted, yes.

Re:Better site? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30212010)

This is all technically exciting, but they'll have to find a business use for this.

it looks like the plane can carry just a few kilos of cargo, and would go around the world in around a month, not too good for transport!

Maybe it would be good for earth observation, cheaper than satellites, more detailed images.
And then maybe an unmaned version.

It will be interesting to follow

Re:Better site? (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213588)

There's a huge market for something like this being able to launch 20 or 30 of these in a conflict area would be a great advantage. Just imagine being able to back track an insurgent's movements for 2 or 3 days because you have a whole city covered with planes. Weapons could even be carried and the only time the planes wold have to land is if they were out of ammo or needed matience these are the next evoloution in UAVs.

Re:Better site? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30212378)

Exactly. The summary's statement that this signals a bright future for solar powered flight is way overstated. Clearly MikeChino has no idea just how much energy is required to move several hundred people or several tons of cargo around the world at several hundred MPH. One guy builds himself a one-man plane. I don't think FedEx will be interested.

Re:Better site? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212562)

Well, you forgot that velocity = const / wing area. Now you could optimize, but don't bother, the result will just tell you to get a pair of infinitely sized wings flying at 0km/h.

Tech is not here. (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212570)

You left out one important part of your 200 passenger plane. Strength of materials to enable any reasonable speeds. I would be curious just how calm of air this solar plane needs to get airborne and stay there without being being damaged. Then there is the whole issue of flying for that many days and not encountering turbulent weather.

Planes already use exotic materials to weigh as little as financially reasons allow. While this solar plane is a neat concept its nothing more than that. I was more interested in human powered flight across the channel.

Re:Better site? (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212742)

I see your point on this, but there are lots of important/cool potential applications for this that are not centered on carrying passengers.

I'm thinking surveillance aircraft capable of near continuous operation, or replacing the Goodyear blimp. You could even equip a plane like this as a cell tower, and be able to shift the hardware to cover areas with high call volume, like during a local emergency.

Right now, this tech doesn't seem capable of transporting cargo or people. However there are lots of reasons why we might want to get man-sized equipment aloft for extended periods of time.

Re:Better site? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30212884)

It's true that this design wouldn't work for actual commercial planes, but replace the wings with a delta wing, which has far more surface for solar panels and achieves a greater sustainment from air, thus meaning less speed required to sustain the plane.
If you also replace the batteries for better ones like the lithium-nanotube ones now under development (around 60% more energy density by replacing the cathode) and, maybe on a future solar panels with > 25% efficiency (at an affordable cost), and you have something useful.
This way it would still not be able to replace big commercial planes, but as a private plane for, let's say, 5 persons, it would be great.

I'm really impressed by the work those guys did, because as far as I've seen, solar planes have been only used by lightweight UAV's.

Re:Better site? (3, Insightful)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212968)

Relax, it's just for research. They're not saying that it'll completely replace all airplane technology, or even that it will ever displace current jet fuel models - it's just something that's worthy of being looked into. Instead of asking ourselves if we can use this to fuel a jumbo jet, let's start with a simpler engineering problem and see if it's practical for powering, say, a 4-passenger private vehicle. Or maybe an unmanned drone for non-passenger purposes.

What is important about this is that if they can show that it's practical and stimulate some interest, then maybe they can get more funding and attention. That's why they have these prototype designs and demos - not cause they think it'll solve every energy-related problem the world faces. Sure, not every new, 'promising' technology ever turns out to be as great as we expect them to be; but if they weren't labeled as such, those few that actually have a chance of being viable would never receive attention.

Re:Better site? (2, Informative)

FreeBSD evangelist (873412) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214756)

Kinda interesting they didn't have the dimensions of the solar plane readily available.

You didn't look very hard, did you?

TECHNCIAL DATASHEET
Wingspan: 63,40 m
Length: 21,85 m
Height: 6,40 m
Weight: 1 600 Kg
Motor power: 4 x 10 HP electric engines
Solar cells: 11 628 (10 748 on the wing, 880 on the horizontal stabilizer)
Average flying speed: 70 km/h
Take-off speed: 35 km/h
Maximum altitude: 8 500 m (27 900 ft)

http://www.solarimpulse.com/en/documents/challenge_solar.php?lang=en&group=challenge [solarimpulse.com]

until storm/nightfall/eclipse hit (0)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 4 years ago | (#30210976)

I wouldn't want to be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when it suddenly got dark.

How well could a hybrid-energy airplane work? Would the solar cells provide more benefit in bright light than they would cost in fuel in the dark?

Re:until storm/nightfall/eclipse hit (5, Informative)

CyberDragon777 (1573387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211052)

RTFS!

"If all goes according to plan the plane will be able to fly day and night without fuel, signaling a bright future for solar-powered flight."

Re:until storm/nightfall/eclipse hit (1)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212062)

Oh yeah, all day and all of the night.

Re:until storm/nightfall/eclipse hit (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213960)

Presumably, however, it is flying on stored power during the night and charging during the day. If the sun is not present during the day then you won't be able to charge and you'll have to glide. Not a problem if you're flying over land - you just need to find a runway in the next few hours - but a big problem if you're in the middle of the ocean. That said, I'd love to have a solar powered light aircraft with a slightly bigger capacity and a shorter range. I wouldn't want to fly for more than a few hours at a time, but having something I could just park outside on an airfield and come back the next day to find it ready to fly would be great.

Man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30210994)

These Piccards...

Zeppelin (2, Interesting)

seifried (12921) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211032)

Da*nit, I want to get on a Zeppelin in say Toronto and spend 2-3 days cruising leisurely (which a nice train style sleeper-cabin, restaurant and bar, free wi-fi of course) to Europe, ideally with service running on an a day that is modified in length in order to reduce jet lag once I get there. If travel were civilized spending more time doing it would be ok. Case in point: Life lessons from an ad man [ted.com] .

Re:Zeppelin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211176)

Yes! Yes yes yes. Or the old Frankfurt to New Jersey route. A transatlantic flight already takes up most of a day. Extend that to a few days and make it a cruise-like experience, and slap a huge array of solar panels on top to power the electric motors. If I had the expertise or money for such a project, I'd be trying to do it when I first had the idea a few years ago. As it is, I'd be glad to invest in any serious company trying to revive transatlantic airship travel.

Re:Zeppelin (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211268)

Why not just take a cruise ship? More efficent (in terms of cargo capacity) and only a bit slower than a airship would be.

Re:Zeppelin (1)

seifried (12921) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211456)

Better view. And I'm not overly concerned about cargo capacity.

Re:Zeppelin (1)

key.aaron (1422339) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211920)

I'm afraid ocean looks like ocean from pretty much any angle...at least from lower you could make out details in the waves

Re:Zeppelin (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214024)

Cruise ships usually travel at about 20kts. The large dirigibles currently being built go at around 45kts. Over a distance of around 3300 nautical miles, the travel time for a dirigible would be around 3 days, while a cruise ship would take almost 7.

Re:Zeppelin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30215648)

Energy consumption on a cruise ship is a lot more demanding than a Zepplin.

Re:Zeppelin (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213802)

Zeppelin is actually a type of airship... And the original designers are still in existence... making airships. Feel free to invest...

free fueled planes exist? (1)

alienzed (732782) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211040)

So can we get our flying cars already?

Re:free fueled planes exist? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213072)

NASA already has a Solar UAV (2, Informative)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211046)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oNHD41MLMk [youtube.com]

But a manned plane would be pretty neat. Hope it has enough batteries for the night - the solar UAV does a lot of gliding, which might not be possible with a heavier aircraft actually attempting to get somewhere.

Re:NASA already has a Solar UAV (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211058)

Maybe it has pedals.

Re:NASA already has a Solar UAV (4, Interesting)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211852)

oh, big planes can glide a loooong way - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Airways_Flight_9 [wikipedia.org]

Re:NASA already has a Solar UAV (2, Insightful)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212430)

that flight crew managed to restart the engines and made a powered landing in jakarta.

for a gliding landing all the way through, check air canada flight 143, AKA, gimli glider [wikipedia.org]

Re:NASA already has a Solar UAV (2, Informative)

caseih (160668) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215770)

A better example is Air Transat Flight 236 where an Airbus 330 glided about 100 miles to a landing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Transat_Flight_236 [wikipedia.org]

Re:NASA already has a Solar UAV (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213062)

Thanks to you, I have now learned a lot more than most people should about commercial jetliners losing all power. Great work!

Re:NASA already has a Solar UAV (1)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213012)

I'm not just worried about the night, but I'm also wondering how direct the sunlight has to be, because this could narrow which air routes can be used. Will it only work at direct, perpendicular incidence? Is there a range of angles where it would be enough? Or do the panels themselves have trackers to orient themselves towards the light?

I assume that they're not huge issues cause they can make it through the night on battery, but they're interesting to consider. Also, I wonder how long it takes those batteries to fully charge.

Solar Powered plane becomes (1)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211050)

Solar Powered plane becomes Solar Powered Car! Film at 11.

Commas (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211096)

Interesting that on their web site [solarimpulse.com] the wingspan is 63,40 m but mass is 1 600 Kg. I suppose they can afford less confusion with the mass of their aircraft.

Re:Commas (5, Informative)

Marcika (1003625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211188)

The decimal comma is an SI standard as much as the decimal point and its usage is preferred (according to Wikipedia) in Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, French Canada, Romania, Sweden and much of the rest of Europe.

Have a look where the design team and the sponsors come from.

Re:Commas (1)

Zouden (232738) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211328)

The rationale is that a speck of ink (or other unwanted mark) is less likely to be confused for a comma than it is for a point.

Since the thousands separator is merely decoration, it doesn't matter if you mistake a speck of ink for one. But the decimal separator is crucial, so it should be as unambiguous as possible.

A comma is also bigger than a point, so it's easier to read for people with poor eyesight. It makes the difference between a 1,5ml dose of a drug and a 15ml dose.

Re:Commas (-1, Troll)

CrashandDie (1114135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211426)

If a nurse or doctor can't read the difference between 1.5 and 15, they aren't fit to be either doctor nor nurse.

Re:Commas (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213474)

If it’s due to poor eyesight, yes. The people delivering medical service should have the eyesight, precision, and attentiveness to tell the difference between 1.5 ml and 15 ml.

If it’s due to poor handwriting or difficult-to-read print, though, I can see how this would be a legitimate issue and it couldn’t always just be blamed on the medical professional who’s doing the job.

tl;dr: Parent has a point, but oversimplifies the issue. I don’t think “Troll” is warranted.

Re:Commas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30211432)

A comma is also bigger than a point, so it's easier to read for people with poor eyesight. It makes the difference between a 1,5ml dose of a drug and a 15ml dose.

Yet somehow we have managed to survive.

Re:Commas (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212082)

Yes, but yelling "One comma two one jiggawatts!" just doesn't pack the same punch.

Comma-separated values (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212546)

But the decimal separator is crucial, so it should be as unambiguous as possible.

But with the rise of the spreadsheet, something else became ambiguous: decimal separator vs. the field separator in CSV files [wikipedia.org] . (I prefer tabs, but some of our service providers prefer commas; it's a good thing I live in Anglophonia.)

Re:Comma-separated values (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213496)

Use quoted fields to hold numbers if they use the comma as the decimal separator. It’s no different from having “Last, First” fields.

Re:Comma-separated values (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214058)

Some CSV parsers will treat quoted inputs as text, not as numbers.

Re:Comma-separated values (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214266)

Then I’m betting they’d also consider the dot to be the decimal separator. If they’re correctly written, it will still be displayed using the regional settings for numbers, although that’s more of a crap-shoot.

Re:Commas (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211444)

Yes I realised my mistake about one ohnosecond after I posted that.

Re:Commas (3, Funny)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213818)

The decimal comma is an SI standard as much as the decimal point and its usage is preferred (according to Wikipedia) in Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, French Canada, Romania, Sweden and much of the rest of Europe.

I was in the Louvre looking at the old French crown jewels when I heard someone read the display: "Fifty-four THOUSAND carats!?!?! WOW!"

Re:Commas (2, Interesting)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214460)

The regular decimal is an SI standard and its usage is preferred in China, India, Russia, America, Canada (the unimportant, non-French part), Mexico, all of South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand...my fingers are getting tired. But hey, you've got Finland *and* Estonia on your standard. Good show!

You'd figure the holier-than-thou would be the ones to find out what the world's standard was and slavishly adhere to it, proclaiming all the while how superior it is, and how anyone who clings to an outdated system out of convenience or custom is a total moron. I can tell you firsthand the Chinese are baffled when it comes to decimals and commas being the wrong way around.

Wow, that's a good news! (2)

Wege (1653059) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211102)

we definitely need more and more of that kind of solutions, not sure though if such solar planes will make it info mainstream

Re:Wow, that's a good news! (1)

Monolith1 (1481423) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211442)

Good its got a second engine, to take you to the crash site.

Yeah.. we live in the future.. (1)

cpscotti (1032676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211232)

Combine this with the predator [wikipedia.org] and we are soo.... soo.. **

I read "Plane Makes RunAway Debut " (1)

Qcaze (735978) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211580)

.. and my brain made these funny images of a runaway plane not quite ready for commitment..

Re:I read "Plane Makes RunAway Debut " (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30213188)

My brain made a fynny image of a transformer(Starscream?) doing it first catwalk.

...those Picards!!!! (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30211652)

...always on the forefront of exploration!!! ;-)

Let's do the math on this one... how many HP? (0)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212046)

Let's do the math.

61 meters wingspan, as an estimate, let's say 6 meters width. That's 360, let's say 400 square meters counting the tail surfaces.
At 15% efficiency and no clouds at high noon , that's about 60 kilowatts, say almost 100 horses. But if you subtract for unavoidable factors
like non high-noon, clouds, battery chemistry, and night, say 40% x 70% x 75% x 40%, we're down to about TWELVE average horsepower trying to lift 3500 pounds.
By comparison, your basic very fragile ultra-light plane that can barely get off the ground has like ten times that power to weight ratio.

This thing is not gonna fly, figuratively or literally.

Re:Let's do the math on this one... how many HP? (2, Insightful)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212232)

Well, this solar plane isn't so much a plane as it is a motor glider given the wingspan and aspect ratio. The motor is just enough to get it off the ground and help gain altitude when thermals and other updraft conditions are not present. Gliders seem to fly just fine and they have a zero power-to-weight ratio, so that argument is a bit naive. Gliders can also be fairly fast given the right conditions: there are high-performance glider races where the gliders fly around 200 knots over a course of about 180 nautical miles (although I wouldn't say the particular aircraft in this article would be a "high performance" aircraft).

Re:Let's do the math on this one... how many HP? (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212264)

Yeah, right, chief, they are idiots and you are real smart. Did you ever hear about a thing called lift to drag ratio? An enormous, extremely high aspect ratio wing has a lift to drag ratio that is out of sight. And power necessary to overcome parasitic drag is proportional to the cube of the speed. This thing flies at a hair over 20 mph near the surface and peaks at about 45 mph at high altitude where the lower air density cuts the drag.

Oh, and if you don't want clouds in the way you, like, fly over them, ya know?

Common ultralights are ridiculously inefficient, aerodynamically, because they don't NEED to be any better to perform their mission.

Re:Let's do the math on this one... how many HP? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30212658)

Didn't you know? This is Slashdot! The place where any asshat can best scores of enginers with nothing more than a high school education.

Re:Let's do the math on this one... how many HP? (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214220)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_plane [wikipedia.org]

all the people that have done it in past must be cheating.

Paul MacCready already built a couple of those (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212218)

This one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Challenger [wikipedia.org] plus he was involved with the NASA one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helios_Prototype [wikipedia.org] . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_B._MacCready [wikipedia.org] Hmm, looks like he died a few years ago. (Note corelation =/= causation. His working on a solar plane probably had nothing to do with his death.)

mod 3own (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30212502)

Anyone else notice... (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212506)

...that they're taking off on a cloudy day on the video? Maybe that's why it was only a runway test ;^)

night and day? (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212564)

Just how does it get power at night? Presummably on a clouded day, it can get power once it get above the clouds, but its batteries can't be good for very long in the advent of lose of sun light. Planes really need a constraited power source, and until wehttp://www.feeddistiller.com/blogs/Hydrogen%20Power/feed.html can do better than chemical, fuel cells or combustion seem best to me. For power/weight ratio, hydrogen powered planes, must be best, with methane or boranes beating all the other hydrogen carbons. The weight of the cryogenic storage, might be a problem though.

---

Hydrogen Power [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Re:night and day? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30212700)

Commercial fuel cells have been ten years away for more than ten years, they're in the same category as supercapacitors, show me the fucking product. Hydrogen has crap energy density and it would make more sense to just use biodiesel in current turbine designs than to ever move to hydrogen; turbines are wicked efficient, and making biodiesel is more efficient than cracking hydrogen by any means we now have available. In fact, most of the nation's hydrogen is cracked from Natural Gas, making it a petro-fuel like all the rest. In the future it will still be necessary to produce the hydrogen we need, since there's no hydrogen mines.

Or, short form, hydrogen will never be more than a small part of the answer.

Re:night and day? (1)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213534)

Hydrogen is an energy transmission device, it's never been a SOURCE of energy. We can't "mine" hydrogen or produce it out of nothing.

You could make the argument that hydrogen electrolysis would work for solar or wind farms to store generated energy, but I have no idea how efficient that would be. I'd imagine it would need to be on a very large scale to be worth it.

Re:night and day? (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213950)

Hydrogen is an energy transmission device, it's never been a SOURCE of energy. We can't "mine" hydrogen or produce it out of nothing.

Uh, yeah, that's what I said, asshole. We lose around 5% of our electrical power in transmission in this country (including conversion related to transmission.) The efficiency of hydrogen through electrolysis is under 60% in basically all real-world cases. Can you see why Hydrogen is fucking stupid, given that it is prohibitively expensive (in terms of energy cost) to make, and that the other forms of hydrogen ARE in effect mined, since again we make most of it from Natural Gas? Which, BTW, comes from wells, we don't make it. We crack the hydrogen out of natural gas in conceptually much the same way we crack the useful hydrocarbons from crude before we burn them in our cars.

You could make the argument that hydrogen electrolysis would work for solar or wind farms to store generated energy, but I have no idea how efficient that would be. I'd imagine it would need to be on a very large scale to be worth it.

Maglev-bearing flywheels are cheaper to build, easier to contain (bury them) and more efficient to store power in. Hydrogen is a boondoggle looking for justification. The only case I can think of where it would actually be useful is in fork lifts, where it would be even cleaner than running them on propane. The problem there is that flywheels need a lot of counterweight and as such are perfect candidates for counterrotating flywheels, which can be spun up rapidly with a variety of technologies.

Re:night and day? (3, Informative)

icebrain (944107) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214174)

Actually, hydrogen has very good energy density by mass (the best of any chemical fuel). By volume, it's very poor. That's why you see hydrogen used as a fuel for rockets (where mass matters much more than volume), but not aircraft. A commercial airliner running on hydrogen would require a huge insulated tank that would add lots of weight and drag; you can't just tuck the fuel into the wings like you can with jet-A. It may become usable for small aircraft, but I don't think you'll see it used for anything larger (except maybe super-high-altitude UAVs and exotic hypersonic vehicles).

However, I do agree that biomass-based synthetic fuels will be far more prevalent in the future. Assuming we don't try to force the use of inefficient food crops for production through heavy-handed government and lobbyist actions (coughcorncough), and instead focus on using mroe efficient plants, algae, and leftover/waste biomass, it will likely work out. I know that there are already a few promising replacements for piston-engine avgas and [avweb.com] diesel and jet fuel [avweb.com] under development, and I think such things are a far better investment of funds for several reasons. They are essentially carbon-neutral once applied on a large scale, they eliminate strategic and economic dependence on politically volatile nation-state cartel members, and they are essentially "drop-in" replacements for current fuels, allowing current infrastructure to be used and changed over much more cheaply than drastic changes.

Re:night and day? (1)

FreeBSD evangelist (873412) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214530)

So none of you guys actually read TFA, did you?

The whole point of this exercise is to build a plane that =can= fly through the night. It does this by storing energy accumulated during the day, both in batteries (chemical) and as altitude (kinetic). Climb during the day, descend (slowly) at night. It's designed to fly at 20 to 30 thousand feet, so clouds aren't an issue. It has four 10 HP electric motors, which will average 8 HP each during flight. It flies at around 40 MPH.

Good News (1)

rssrss (686344) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213476)

No Red Eyes.

on a related note... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30213880)

today, the first solar power aircraft crashed during take off as the sun became temporarily obscured by cloud cover.

dude, wind turbine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214410)

why dont they just put a wind turbine on that thing, that would work so much better.

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