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Solar-Powered Plane Makes First Successful Flight

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the finally-a-daytime-launch dept.

Transportation 118

lilbridge writes "The Solar Impulse, a solar-powered plane covered in 12,000 solar cells, took its maiden flight today in Switzerland. The plane stayed aloft for 87 minutes, performing test maneuvers as well as completing a successful takeoff and landing. With the first test flight behind them, the developers can focus on gearing up for their around-the-world solar powered flight set for 2012."

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Around the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31763730)

Would they be more likely to try to fly West and keep the sun or fly East to have to run shorter lengths of time on batteries?

Re:Around the world (3, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763778)

They won't come close to matching Earth's rotation, so I don't see a point to dragging out the length of night and thus requiring larger batteries.

Re:Around the world (1)

vwjeff (709903) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763988)

So, when you jump in the air the Earth rotates under you? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Re:Around the world (4, Insightful)

vbraga (228124) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764058)

That's the point I think. If it could keep up with Earth's rotation it could be kept under constant sunlight (or, at least, under an extended period of sunlight) roughly like a sun-synchronous orbit [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Around the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764064)

Actually, it does rotate underneath you. You just continue at the same speed through space so relative to you, it doesn't seem to be rotating. But the real point from the post your responding to is that the earth's rotation will move quicker than a solar-powered plane can fly, thus blocking the sun and preventing it from refueling.

Re:Around the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764136)

So, when you jump in the air the Earth rotates under you? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Actually it does. If you took a big enough jump outward from the center of the earth and returned in 12 hours, it wouldn't be at the same place. For a good dicourse on the subject, look at ECEF and ECEI reference frames (with respect to orbital mechanics)

Re:Around the world (2, Informative)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31765766)

Or study some weather. It is called the Coriolis effect (if I'm spelling that correctly).

Re:Around the world (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764138)

Sorry, but you've not thought through your objection. The plane isn't jumping straight up, for one thing, and for another, the winds generally blow in a given direction at a given latitude. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Around the world (2, Informative)

magarity (164372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764698)

So, when you jump in the air the Earth rotates under you? Yeah, I didn't think so
 
What an extremely funny comment - obviously you've never taken a long flight. Take off from San Francisco in the morning and go to somewhere in SE Asia on a commercial airliner and the sun will be up the whole way thanks to the plane's speed. BA a few times had "new year's eve around the world" flights because the Concorde was faster than the Earth's rotation with time to spare for refueling.
 
That's what the GP was wondering about, not you hopping in place, silly. Still, at 70mph, this solar plane doesn't have a chance.

Re:Around the world (3, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764048)

"an average speed of 70 kph" - "won't come close" is an understatement.

I would think you'd aim to build something that can act as a glider (and the long narrow wings in the picture look like they are) at night. With batteries giving engines when you need them, but not requiring batteries big (and heavy) enough to last the 18 hours or so when the sun is either not visible too low for the solar panels to generate much power.

Either way, you are going to east with the jet streams - that's going to have far more impact than day length variance.

Re:Around the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764146)

I'm not sure it's safe to assume they'd have 18 hours of unusable time. They could have much longer hours of sunlight depending on the time of year and latitude.

Re:Around the world (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764354)

I'm not assuming, I'm trusting what the builders/designers state:

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

Re:Around the world (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764372)

though I should state that I did make a typo, read 16 where I wrote 18.

Re:Around the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764484)

Gliders are already indirectly solar powered, requiring atmospheric convection to stay aloft. So they don't really fly at night.

Re:Around the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764540)

No, not quite. They are indirectly solar powered when they gain altitude. To simply stay aloft (temporarily) they glide. Its in the name, see? And the indirectness of the solar power can be marked if you are doing something like wave-soaring, where you get lift from vertical oscillations in winds blowing over mountains. The wind itself is generated by convection currents somewhere, but nowhere local to the glider.

Re:Around the world (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 4 years ago | (#31767672)

So they don't really fly at night.

They often don't fly at night, but since a record was set in 1952 [statemaster.com] for a 56h 15m flight, I don't quite think you can say they can't stay aloft after dark (although I suspect Messr. Atger was probably using ridge lift rather than convection to keep airborne during the night).

Re:Around the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764148)

Or...

Fly due west when getting sufficient sunlight. Fly due east when not.

Stretch the day as long as possible, and condense the night to as short as possible.

Re:Around the world (1)

IshmaelDS (981095) | more than 4 years ago | (#31766506)

um.....did you think that out or is this a *whoosh* moment? If you are flying west and then east then your not really going to get very far, or if the flight times are different it's going to take you a hell of a long time, especially at 70kph.

Re:Around the world (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764060)

Even flying west to get longer in the sun, it isn't going to work.

Earth's circumference = 24,900 miles.

They have to keep pace with the sun, to have the sun directly overhead to get maximum panel output, which means covering 24,900 miles in 24 hours, or 1,037 mph. In other words, they need to be mucho supersonic - good luck with those propellers.

Even at half that, they end up in the dark and out of power - and there's no way that they can get to 500 mph with that design (and we're ignoring that the sun would be at a lousy angle for much of the flight).

At 44 mph, it's going to take them 3-1/2 WEEKS to make the trip. Better stock up on food, water, and lots of Depends (because sh*t happens).

In other words, unless they have some big-ass batteries, or they get the pilot to pedal a lot, or they glide all night (not very practical and will stretch out the flight to a week or more), they really need to upgrade their math skills.

Re:Around the world (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764130)

equatorial circumference. Move very near to the pole and you can manage to stay in sunlight (unfortunately oblique, so you might not get enough energy) permanently.

Re:Around the world (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764270)

equatorial circumference. Move very near to the pole and you can manage to stay in sunlight (unfortunately oblique, so you might not get enough energy) permanently.

Well, if you move TO the pole, you can send a paper airplane "around the world" ... cover every single longitude ... with one throw.

Re:Around the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764314)

Move very near to the pole, and you can walk around the world in a couple of minutes.

Re:Around the world (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31765172)

If you're near one of the polar regions then the axial inclination means that either night or day will be much shorter (depending on the time of year). If you time it right, you can go around with only an hour or so of night. Of course, then you're not flying a great circle, so it's cheating. You can probably pick a great circle that gets more sunlight than an equatorial flight though, with some careful timing.

Re:Around the world (1)

sleeping143 (1523137) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764182)

You should probably email them so they don't miss any of your brilliant tips, since they probably haven't considered any of those points in their design and analysis.

Re:Around the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764240)

Earth's circumference = 24,900 miles.

At the equator only... If you fly "around the world" at a higher latitude (longitude?), the diameter is much smaller and the required speed to stay in the sunlight is much lower.

Re:Around the world (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764340)

So go to the north or south pole - you can throw a paper airplane so it passes through every line of longitude.

But nobody would count that as going "around the world."

Re:Around the world (1)

yo_tuco (795102) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764786)

"At the equator only... If you fly "around the world" at a higher latitude (longitude?), the diameter is much smaller and the required speed to stay in the sunlight is much lower."

Everyone assumes to fly around the World means flying at a constant longitude. At any latitude you can fly "around the world" equal in distance to the circumference of the Earth (assuming the earth is a sphere) at the equator by flying the arc of a great circle (remember your spherical trigonometry?).

Re:Around the world (1)

yo_tuco (795102) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764836)

Correction, constant latitude.

Hardware? (0)

alphax45 (675119) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763742)

Why is this under Hardware?

Re:Hardware? (1)

alop (67204) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763858)

Well, it doesn't have much to do with "Your Rights Online" ;)

Re:Hardware? (3, Funny)

Intron (870560) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764610)

No. It's "Your Wrights Online"

Re:Hardware? (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763866)

Well it certainly isn't SOFTware.

Round the world flight attempt in 2012. (1)

d474 (695126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763772)

That's pretty bold of them, attempting a round the world solar powered flight test during the Apocalypse. God speed.

Re:Round the world flight attempt in 2012. (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763804)

Are you kidding? It'll keep them away away from the waves/radiation/zombies/whatnot. It's brilliant!

Re:Round the world flight attempt in 2012. (1)

cruelworld (21187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764278)

Yeah, but what are they going to do when the Sun goes out? huh? didn't think so.

Re:Round the world flight attempt in 2012. (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764330)

Do you think it's going to be zombies? I haven't done any zombie prep at all.

Re:Round the world flight attempt in 2012. (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31765336)

Zombie prep? I'm fairly certain most households own either a shotgun, a baseball bat or a frying pan. The whole world is practically "Zombie prepped".

Re:Round the world flight attempt in 2012. (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31767194)

Are you serious? Every household should have one of [ning.com] these [flickr.com] around!

Re:Round the world flight attempt in 2012. (1)

G00F (241765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764030)

Who needs a giant boat made in China when you can be flying with unlimited fuel?

Just need to have a speed to keep you in sunlight all the time, which is about 1100mph at the equator in flight, less if you go north/south or fly lower to the ground. Being how this s in Switzerland, looks like the craft can operate in less than ideal solar conditions (far from equator) plus at their latitude they wont have to travel as fast to stay in daylight. Or can use battery power when not in daylight.

In any case, an aircraft that isn't dependent on a stored fuel source is ideal for an Apocalypse.

Re:Round the world flight attempt in 2012. (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764570)

In any case, an aircraft that isn't dependent on a stored fuel source is ideal for an Apocalypse.

Only if the seats are wide enough.

Re:Round the world flight attempt in 2012. (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764992)

Just need to have a speed to keep you in sunlight all the time, which is about 1100mph at the equator in flight, less if you go north/south or fly lower to the ground.

Don't forget its zero MPH for certain times of the year around the poles, and you can glide airplanes.

Lets assume a healthy, perhaps overoptimistic 10:1 glide ratio. And they get up to a rather optimistic 53k feet aka 10 miles over a roughly sea level surface. So, they can glide 100 miles. Lets say it handles like an alaskan bush plane and stalls at 33 MPH. That means 3 hours of glide time, assuming no thermals (at least shortly after sundown) or ridge lift.

I suppose a big enough solar panel might generate measurable power off moonshine. The reflected light, I mean.

What about at night? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31763784)

Worst. Redeye. Ever...

Reminds me of the Voyager (1)

alop (67204) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763790)

I get the same giddy enthusiasm that I got back in the '80's with the Voyager.
But that is a very interesting question about which direction they would fly.
I would venture they might take tradewinds/jet stream into account, perhaps some thermal updrafts too, over merely following the sun.

Weather (1)

desertjedi85 (1701804) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763852)

Does it store enough energy so it can fly late evening or during rain?

Re:Weather (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31763938)

No, it doesn't unfortunately. BTW, desertjedi85 is code for dumb-as-shit buck nigger.

Carry on.

Re:Weather (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31763990)

You know what, i would bet money that you woke up earlier today with your tighty-whities turned inside-out on the floor, a stinky/crusty face and a sore butthole.

And then your smiled.

Re:Weather (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764004)

I recall reading about the weather issue for solar panel on roofs. The study said the solar panel kept most of its efficiency when it is cloudy. I wish I have a pointer to the article.

Secret Stealth Version (1)

electricprof (1410233) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764140)

Secret labs are working on a stealth version that flies exclusively at night ... wait there's a flaw in there somewhere ... DOH!

Re:Weather (1)

hAckz0r (989977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764144)

They would likely be flying above the clouds, if possible, so rain would not matter much, except for avoiding the major storms. The flight characteristics are likely similar to the http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/news/FactSheets/FS-034-DFRC.html [nasa.gov] Pathfinder but with battery technology and materials improvements they will do better than the 14-15 hours aloft of pathfinder. Their nighttime flight was limited to 2-5 hours, likely due to the battery technology of the day. The trade off with this plane is that it also has to carry a passenger which likely more that makes up for the lighter batteries available today.

Re:Weather (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#31765676)

They would likely be flying above the clouds, if possible, so rain would not matter much, except for avoiding the major storms.

That's all well and good, but it raises a new issue: how do they plan to bring enough breathing oxygen for a trip that's likely to take weeks? Hypoxia might not be an issue for a few hours, if you're acclimated, but it IS going to be a problem.

Re:Weather (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31767020)

Why, their wireless Internet connection of course. Everyone knows Internet is just a series of tubes anyway, it should be perfectly capable of transporting all the oxygen needed!

Today's weather forecast.... (4, Funny)

Last_Available_Usern (756093) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763948)

Partly cloudy with a 100% chance of crash.

Re:Today's weather forecast.... (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 4 years ago | (#31763978)

In the pictures, it seems they intend to fly over the clouds.

Re:Today's weather forecast.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31766016)

I love this statement from the pilot:

“Despite its immense size and feather weight, the aircraft’s controllability matches our expectations.”

...and what exactly were their expectations? That it would fly in much the same way that bricks don't???

Piloted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31763952)

Wow, this thing is actually piloted by a human. I thought it was autonomous at first.

Re:Piloted (1)

Whalou (721698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764656)

Having the plane computer-controlled would require more solar energy.

What's the point of flying around the world? (2, Insightful)

KGBear (71109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764022)

What we need is a solar-powered plane capable of safely carrying a couple dozen people 500 miles.

Re:What's the point of flying around the world? (3, Funny)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764392)

Who are these two dozen people, and where exactly are you taking them?

Re:What's the point of flying around the world? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764598)

What we need is a solar-powered plane capable of safely carrying a couple dozen people 500 miles.

And a little bit of legroom, please.

And some fresher Oreo crackers.

Have We Already Forgotten? (2, Informative)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764036)

This [nasa.gov] represents the first solar-powered flights ever. Not the plane in this article.

I guess we've forgotten:

  • Sunrise II - November 4, 1974
  • Gossamer Penguin - May 18, 1980 (solar powered flight), August 7, 1980 (solar-powered public demo)
  • Solar Challenger - July 7, 1981 (cross-Channel flight)
  • Pathfinder - September 11, 1995 (reached record altitude of 50,500ft); April (or sometime later, article doesn't say) 1997 (set new record for both prop and solar powered planes with altitude of 71,530ft)
  • Pathfinder-Plus - August 6, 1998 (set new altitude record for prop and solar plane: 80,201 ft)

From the article:

After seven years in the making, the Solar Impulse made its first real flight this morning from an airbase in Switzerland. The solar-powered plane got up to 5,500 ft in altitude and performed test maneuvers in order to see if the plane handled as well as simulations predicted.

Really? And this is impressive how? Seven years to reinvent existing technology? Puh-lease.

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764344)

The title isn't saying that this is the first solar-powered plane to have a successful flight. They are saying this is the first successful flight that this specific solar-powered plane has taken.

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764382)

There's a little more beyond that. Helios eventually crashed [nasa.gov] , but not before making it to 96,863 feet.

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764538)

There is, but I left of Centurion and Helios because I couldn't get any dates or flight data from my source. I'm sure a little more checking on that would have provided that information (and thank you for the link) but I felt it was beyond the scope of what I was going at.

There's a Business Insider article where the author makes the claim for "first solar-powered flight" without any caveat of it being first for that plane/company. I sent him a polite email informing him of his error with a request for correction that has gone ignored. I might email his ombudsman next.

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764404)

This [nasa.gov] represents the first solar-powered flights ever.

And we're still working on them. [darpa.mil]

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (0)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764580)

I'm sure we are. That's not really the issue here. The title came across (at first) as sounding as if this was another (false) claim of making the first ever solar powered flight.

Even so, the submission is little more than a shill for the company. It's neither impressive or nerdy and really doesn't matter. Seven years for their maiden test flight and now no more big demos until 2012? Puh-lease. I could have lived my entire life without hearing about this. Now if it was, as someone else suggested in another thread, a flight with a dozen people even just 500 miles, that would be impressive.

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (3, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764412)

Are you an idiot?

They aren't claiming first ever solar flight.

They aren't claiming that the solar thing is new and amazing.

They aren't claiming it is impressive in itself.

They are claiming it's a significant milestone on the path to their goal.

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764762)

Do NOT feed the trolls.
Repeat
Do NOT feed the trolls

Let them crawl back under their bridge and resume nose-picking.

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764552)

I guess you've forgotten how to read an article. Nothing else can explain why you think they're claiming to have made the first solar-powered flight in history.

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764612)

My mistake, but the title of the submission could have been worded better.

Either way, we seem to have forgotten the early history of solar flight.

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31765012)

Really? And this is impressive how? Seven years to reinvent existing technology? Puh-lease.

Yeah, the first thing I thought was "that looks like every other solar plane I've seen since I was a kid."

Re:Have We Already Forgotten? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31765840)

Yeah, I was pretty shocked to read such a thing too. Until I read a different claim in an article : they say that it is the first time a solar-powered plane takes-off, flies and lands. All the others seem to have reached mid-air as gliders with a tractor plane. Does any of the plane you mention used to take off from the ground ?

Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (-1, Troll)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764078)

Wonderful, as a concept. But horrible as a vehicle.

Do the math. 60 meter wingspan times maybe 4 meter wing width gives you 240 square meters of solar cell area.
You get about 150 watts per square meter with the sun at right angles and no clouds. That's about 48 horsepower at best.
Now integrate that for a whole day and night and you have about 15 horsepower continuous.

A 15 horsepower plane is a really, really unsafe and miserable vehicle. It's just an underpowered and fragile disaster waiting to happen.
Even a light rain is going to bring it down.

I wish he pilot well and hope their parachute works.

Re:Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (4, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764426)

As one of the designers of the system, I have just this to say... gosh, we never thought of that. Looking at the designs again in light of your insightful, informed comments it's clear that we're all insane and or incompetent for designing this thing. We should have realized sooner, but I guess we were all to drunk/high to notice.

END SARCASM

This was designed by engineers with experience in the field. They know all about power to weight ratios, wingspans, and surface areas. The fact that you were able to come up with your objections with about 30 seconds of thought should make you realize that the engineers involved probably came up with the same concerns somewhere along the 7 year development cycle. As for it being miserable to fly... of course it is, this isn't a sport plane or even a transport plane, it's a proof of concept at best (and I don't really see how the concept could ever really be made into anything other than a gee whiz toy).

Re:Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764742)

I don't see any reason for the vituperation. I did not attack the designers, I just mentioned some obvious facts to compensate for people's superficial understanding of flying objects. Slashdot tends to be a bit too gee-whizzy in its enthusiasms. I think there's room and need for a little factual balance.

Re:Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (2, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764792)

It's just an underpowered and fragile disaster waiting to happen.

Saying this about a project an engineer has devoted 7 years of their life to is an attack on that engineer. It implies that they don't know what they're doing, that they're uninformed, that they're idiots. Thinking that you can outsmart someone who is demonstrably more knowledgeable and experienced about the subject (unless of course you happen to have a solar powered plane in your garage) insults that person.

Re:Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (0)

Inda (580031) | more than 4 years ago | (#31765060)

Why are you even defending yourself? Grow some thicker skin.

Re:Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (0, Flamebait)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31765992)

One of the lessons of the last ten years has been that people who talk about shit don't always know what the hell they're doing. Hey, let's question less and have more trust in the future, that sounds like a great idea.

Moreover, what kind of elite engineer spends time on Slashdot flaming people? WTF? Don't you have something exciting to do? You sure you're an engineer and not some kind of coffee-fetcher or janitor on the solar plane project?

Re:Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764808)

I think there's room and need for a little factual balance.

And you did a fantastic job of failing to provide any.

Saying the plane is a "disaster waiting to happen" is wrong, stupid, and yes, an insult to the designers for implying they'd make something that some random /.er can see in two seconds is going to be brought out of the air by rain.

Oh lol right, you're Ancient Hacker, the guy who trolls by claiming to be a 'hacker' who is nearly universally wrong on every technical subject.

Re:Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764468)

> A 15 horsepower plane is a really, really unsafe and miserable vehicle. It's
> just an underpowered and fragile disaster waiting to happen.

15hp continuous is not 15hp peak. It has batteries.

Re:Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764814)

>15hp continuous is not 15hp peak. It has batteries.

Yep, and it's going to need them for situations like takeoff, climb, rain, downdrafts, clouds, night, or icing.

But that means the rest of the time it has *less* than 15hp to work with if it's going to use some of its sun power to recharge the batteries. No free lunch.

Re:Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764918)

You already averaged the available solar power over the entire day to get that 15hp number, so no, idiot, when the sun is shining they'll have less than 48hp if they spend some to charge the batteries. Fuck you're stupid.

Re:Swell, but it's a miserable vehicle. (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31766476)

Not saying there is a free lunch, but with the light weight and wingspan it has, it has a 40:1 Glide Ratio so if I power up my engines to climb really high. This extra altitude becomes potential energy that I can play out at a 40 to 1 ratio, 40 miles travelled forward for every mile I drop in altitude. Since its travelling ~44 mph, that's about an hours worth of travel just on gliding, can an hour's worth of charge make up for the energy spent gradually climbing 1 mile in altitude?

Do you climb during the brightest overhead sunlight?

I can't find the place where you calculated the available sunlight, but did you include the fact days are appreciably longer with stronger sunlight above 35,000 ft?

44mph (2, Interesting)

MooseTick (895855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764086)

The article says the plane averages 44mph (70kph). At that rate it will take about 24 days to circle the earth if they tried it in a single flight. Hopefully they will be able to get a little more speed before they try that.

thats great (1)

meow27 (1526173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764104)

but how much did it cost?

it didnt say that in TFA

Re:thats great (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764370)

Less than it cost to let me drill your mothers ass.

Oh wait, she was free. My bad.

Can I upgrade the legroom? (1)

enaso1970 (759924) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764406)

And for a round the world flight, I'll definitely need one of those in-seat video whats its and some stiff drinks. I'll bet the emergency videos are really tedious. *sniff*

Do editors have a brain? Do they think we got one? (-1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764476)

The plane stayed aloft for 87 minutes, performing test maneuvers as well as completing a successful takeoff and landing.

Gosh, that is novel. So first it flies for 87 minutes, does several maneuvers and THEN even manages a successful takeoff. Didn't see that one coming. I thought it had crashed on takeoff, but no.

Pedantic? You bet.

It as bad as, "he died from his injuries which are believed to have been lethal". No kidding.

Less is more editors. Some of us can read between the lines, especially when they are written in editor crayon. What next, "the red firetruck was red"?

Re:Do editors have a brain? Do they think we got o (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764572)

It says "as well as" not "then", if you're going to be a pedant at least get it right.

Re:Do editors have a brain? Do they think we got o (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764648)

There are ways to get into the air other than performing a takeoff under your own power. Perhaps you're the one without the brain.

Re:Do editors have a brain? Do they think we got o (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764712)

The plane stayed aloft for 87 minutes, performing test maneuvers as well as completing a successful takeoff and landing.

Gosh, that is novel. So first it flies for 87 minutes, does several maneuvers and THEN even manages a successful takeoff. Didn't see that one coming. I thought it had crashed on takeoff, but no.

Pedantic? You bet.

It as bad as, "he died from his injuries which are believed to have been lethal". No kidding.

Less is more editors. Some of us can read between the lines, especially when they are written in editor crayon. What next, "the red firetruck was red"?

You must be a lot of fun at parties.

Did it not cross your mind that there was the possibility that such a plane was dropped from a carrier aircraft, and hence it was necessary to specify in the article that this thing took off under its own steam?

Re:Do editors have a brain? Do they think we got o (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31764848)

Then what would have made sense was to mention that, the plane was not dropped from a carrier aircraft and was able to take off and land on it own.

Just saying "completing a successful takeoff and landing" makes not much sense.

Re:Do editors have a brain? Do they think we got o (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#31767662)

Riiiight. And then you'd be complaining about the redundancy of saying that it wasn't dropped from a carrier plane, it would have been easier to just say that the plane took off itself (which is what TFA actually says).

Re:Do editors have a brain? Do they think we got o (2, Insightful)

Gravitron 5000 (1621683) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764826)

The plane stayed aloft for 87 minutes, performing test maneuvers as well as completing a successful takeoff and landing.

Gosh, that is novel. So first it flies for 87 minutes, does several maneuvers and THEN even manages a successful takeoff. Didn't see that one coming. I thought it had crashed on takeoff, but no.

The expression "as well as" does not imply when this successful take off occurred within those 87 minutes. Reading between the lines as you stated and applying a touch of logic would imply that the take off was the first thing to happen within the time mentioned. Also, just because an airplane is capable of powered flight, does not necessarily make it capable of an unassisted take off. If only 87 minutes of powered flight was mentioned, the plane could have been dropped from a balloon and crashed into a barn at the end of its flight. If you are going to be pedantic, at least be thorough.

Re:Do editors have a brain? Do they think we got o (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31765136)

The plane stayed aloft for 87 minutes, performing test maneuvers as well as completing a successful takeoff and landing.

I assumed the editor knows nothing about what the journalist is writing about. Usually, this is a correct assumption. In fact usually journalists know nothing about what they are writing about. He probably "corrected" it from "successful landing and takeoff" to make it sound better. What they were dancing around was:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touch-and-go_landing [wikipedia.org]

Re:Do editors have a brain? Do they think we got o (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31765470)

Pedantic? You bet.

No, not really.

What passes for pedantry on /. has really gone down hill over the years in my crotchety old opinion. It's gone from nitpicking the usage of words that actually have highly specific technical definitions that it actually makes sense to be pedantic about, to trying to find the stupidest way to fail to understand everyday English sentences.

Nonsense (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764496)

The first solar powered aircraft took wing in the 1600's. As told in The Mysterious Cities of Gold! [retrojunk.com]

Yeah but... (1)

ericthughes (1015253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31764524)

I fail to see what this has to do with iPad but now that YOU brought it up... Can I charge my iPad while flying in this thing?????

Why is this so big? (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31766770)

This thing is nearly as big as a bomber. Seems to me the square-cube law (with power going with square and weight to be flown going with cube) would favor smaller machines - unless the density of the solar cells combined with a fixed thickness, and/or the weight of the control computer and hardware, imposed a limit.

Why so skinny? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31767560)

Wouldn't it be better to go with an all-wing design to maximize the surface exposed to the sun?

Not good until (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#31767924)

It's not good until it can also be driven on the roads. I WANT MY FLYING CAR.

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