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Solar Impulse Completes First Intercontinental Solar Flight

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the always-land-before-dark dept.

Transportation 56

An anonymous reader writes "Slashdotters may remember the Solar Impulse — the world's first 100% solar-powered airplane — from last year when it made its public debut. Today the airplane made news again as it successfully completed the world's first solar-powered intercontinental flight — a pivotal step that paves the way for the plane's first trip around the world in 2014."

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56 comments

First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Lissajous (989738) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236101)

From an intercontinental solar-powered plane!

Re:First Post (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236121)

OK for the solar powered plane I'll let it go this time.

Re:First Post (2)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236163)

From a continental bullshit-powered basement computer!

FTFY

Not really that spectacular... (0)

kommakazi (610098) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236123)

...when using intercontinental in the context of a 515 mile flight from Europe to Africa. Wake me up when it goes from North America to Europe...

Re:Not really that spectacular... (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236175)

515 miles isn't impressive for a solar powered flight? Maybe I am naive, but this seems like quite an accomplishment to me. Perhaps you would like to pull something out of your resume that is more impressive?

Re:Not really that spectacular... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236389)

The 515 miles is impressive. But compared to the size of a continent, it seems like they are bragging without merit. Kind of like how it would sounds if you heard that someone ran around the earth in 20 seconds (but they really ran around the south pole). Kind of like a less extreme example of this [xkcd.com] .

Re:Not really that spectacular... (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236573)

Yeah, in this part of the world, 515 miles sounds more like an interstate flight.

I have flown from one continent to another, and it 12 hours by 747 - over 6000 miles. (and up wind too)

Re:Not really that spectacular... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236511)

Yeah like my 8 cylinder gas guzzling carbon poison spewing internal combustion engine baby.

Re:Not really that spectacular... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236611)

If it made it 500 miles I assume the problem was that the sun went down rather than any mechanical reason why it couldn't fly indefinitely.

Re:Not really that spectacular... (1)

PhillC (84728) | more than 2 years ago | (#40242331)

Solar Impulse has already flown continuously for more than 24 hours, to prove that it can fly through the night on battery power alone.

Re:Not really that spectacular... (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237601)

Considering that the FAI lists the world record for free distance for open-class GLIDERS at 2259km [fai.org] (1403 miles) [google.com] , then I'd have to agree with GPP that no, 515 miles for a POWERED airplane (even solar powered) isn't all that impressive.

Note: if you just click the FAI link, you won't see the results I'm referencing above. You have to select "DO - Open Class Gliders" in the "subclass" drop-down box, "Free Distance" in the "Type of Record" drop-down box and "World" in the "Record Zone" box. Sorry...I couldn't find a way to link to just the results I found.

Re:Not really that spectacular... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40241521)

Absolutely, they're 20 years too late, in 1992 a glider was soared from Vinon in Provence to Fez in Morocco, 930 miles! After the launch it was exclusively powered by solar energy, albeit gathered in the form of air heated in contact with the ground rising as thermals, it managed a significantly higher average speed too.

Re:Not really that spectacular... (1)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 2 years ago | (#40240509)

the distance IS impressive. their use of "intercontinental" to describe the distance is not. wouldn't even get across the lengths of some u.s. states.

the significance, i think, of the 515 miles, is that it is the distance between dayton and kitty hawk.

Re:Not really that spectacular... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236235)

515 miles in almost 20 hours. Looks like the around the world attempt is going to take almost 40 days. I hope they bring enough snacks.

Re:Not really that spectacular... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236319)

That's still double the speed of Phileas Fogg

Re:Not really that spectacular... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236325)

Thankfully,. there is a much more polite term for 'slow and works poorly under clouds'.

Just use the phrase "High Altitude and Long Endurance(HALE) Platform", slap an optics module into the nose, and watch the spooks line up to wave cash in your face...

Re:Not really that spectacular... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236779)

You could fly from Europe to Asia in one second using human power!

Intercontinental (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236127)

So it crossed the Med at Gibraltar from Europe to Africa?

Re:Intercontinental (1)

coldsalmon (946941) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236463)

I hear that in its next flight it's going to cross the Pacific, via the Bering Strait.

Yeah, this was over-hyped, but a solar-powered airplane is still pretty darn cool.

Re:Intercontinental (2)

es330td (964170) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236729)

I categorize this as "cool" in the same way a "car" that gets 150+ mpg by carrying a single passenger lying down in an egg shaped vehicle at 5 mph is "cool." Yes, it is progress that a solar powered airplane has flown. That said, there are a lot of things that don't scale, and if it can't carry cargo or people, or get there in anything approaching a reasonable time frame it is a novelty at best.

Re:Intercontinental (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40239051)

Yeah but what if we 3D print it in space in a private space station, what then, huh?

PS: This is how some slashdotters think.

Nice proof-of-concept, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236155)

At a hair over 32mph average speed and a total distance of 515 miles, I most sincerely wouldn't want to be cooped up in there for the duration of their planned 'round-the-world flight.

Re:Nice proof-of-concept, but... (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236265)

However when UAVs are approved and if this guy's decendants can carry a decent payload, regular unmanned transportation of goods with a price independant of idiots killing each other in the desert might be important to humanity even if it is slow.

Re:Nice proof-of-concept, but... (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236329)

A solar blimp or zeppelin would work better for that usage. That way all energy can go towards forward movement instead of also having to provide lift.

Re:Nice proof-of-concept, but... (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237001)

That way all energy can go into fighting the wind.

Re:Nice proof-of-concept, but... (0)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237195)

That way all energy can go into fighting the wind.

Why did you post such a stupid comment?

Re:Nice proof-of-concept, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40237469)

So the solar powered plane can maintain a speed 5-10 mph higher than that of a typical zepplin. Since both have the same atmospheric reference frame, the plane will be up to 66% better at fighting the wind than the advertising blimps filming open-top football games.

With the same tech of solar panels on a zepplin, you'll get a lot more energy, energy that can be used for more powerful propulsion systems than in current blimpvertisements. While a solar plane may work in the future, we could put the current generation of solar tech into something that will work well in the interim.

Re:Nice proof-of-concept, but... (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237561)

Why I thought the comment was stupid is that you wouldn't go against the wind in a blimp, you would use the trade winds to enhance it's efficiency. Kinda like the old sailing ships.

Re:Nice proof-of-concept, but... (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237797)

If the wind happens to be cooperating, great. If not, you have to spend a lot of energy pushing that big fat blimp through the air. So sure, all the energy can go into forward movements, but it will take a lot more of it.

Re:Nice proof-of-concept, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40238803)

"Why I thought the comment was stupid is that you wouldn't go against the wind in a blimp"

You obviously know nothing about how a blimp or dirigible is actually flown.

Such ignorance is a poor basis for calling someone else stupid.

Get back to us when you have a pilot's license with a powered lighter-than-air rating.

Useless metric (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236179)

"Intercontinental" is meaningless (heck even trans-atlantic or pacific can be gamed - just fly from Alaska to Russia, sheesh) The flight was ~500 miles from Europe to Africa. It took only 20 hours. In summer. In the Northern hemisphere.

Call me when it flies for over 24 hours in a season where day light hours are significantly less than night time hours....

Re:Useless metric (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236373)

from tfa

The plane, which requires 12,000 solar cells, embarked on its first flight in April 2010 and completed a 26-hour flight, a record flying time for a solar powered aircraft, three months later.

Re:Useless metric (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237675)

Your point still stands, but IMHO (and I live here) flying from Alaska to Russia in anything less robust and redundant than an airliner takes some serious cojones. That water is COLD. You don't want to ditch there in an in-flight emergency.

Crossing Knik Arm outside of Anchorage (maybe two miles wide?) is uncomfortable enough. My former employer used to cross the Arm at 600 feet, until he had an airplane lose power on take-off from Anchorage International (which is on the shores of Knik Arm). He managed to land on the remaining runway, but after that incident, if he couldn't get clearance to cross the Arm at a higher altitude, he took the long way down the arm rather than attempt to cross at low altitude again.

At about 25 miles/hour (3, Insightful)

kwerle (39371) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236187)

piloted their Solar Impulse airplane over 515 miles to their destination in Rabat, Morocco... Furthermore, after almost 20 hours of flight

Perhaps not best for manned flight (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236337)

Well, fine, I guess. The article says it took them 20 hours to fly 515 miles. That's about 25mph. So, with necessary rest, etc, around the world in 80 days, basically?

Nice (5, Interesting)

joib (70841) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236355)

The thing has a wingspan on 68m, more than an A340. Yet it weighs 1600 kg, about the same as a car. Carbon fiber and epoxy is a pretty impressive combination..

The First Always Kinda Sucks, Give It A Break (5, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236419)

The first car sucked. The first bicycle sucked. It's a goddamn proof of concept, people. Stop shit-talking it, this is how progress is made.

Re:The First Always Kinda Sucks, Give It A Break (0)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236575)

The first car sucked. The first bicycle sucked. It's a goddamn proof of concept, people. Stop shit-talking it, this is how progress is made.

The first solar aircraft was built in 1974. [wikipedia.org] This is hardly the first. By 1981, a solar powered aircraft flew 163 miles. [wikipedia.org] The fact it took 31 years to increase the range by a factor of ~3 is piss poor IMHO.

Wake me when it circumnavigates the globe without stopping. [wikipedia.org] Then I'll be impressed.

Re:The First Always Kinda Sucks, Give It A Break (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236995)

The first car sucked. The first bicycle sucked. It's a goddamn proof of concept, people. Stop shit-talking it, this is how progress is made.

The first solar aircraft was built in 1974. [wikipedia.org] This is hardly the first. By 1981, a solar powered aircraft flew 163 miles. [wikipedia.org] The fact it took 31 years to increase the range by a factor of ~3 is piss poor IMHO.

Wake me when it circumnavigates the globe without stopping. [wikipedia.org] Then I'll be impressed.

If you had read your links, you knew that the Solar Riser's solar panels needed 1.5 hours of bright sunshine, to produce enough energy to fly for 3 to 5 minutes. The Solar Impulse on the other hand, is (in theory, if the pilot would not need to sleep) able to fly non-stop. Recharging it's batteries while the sun is shining (while producing enough energy to keep flying all the time).

Re:The First Always Kinda Sucks, Give It A Break (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236741)

Supposing they solve the remaining problems (eg. Sun going down), how will this be better than an airship (Zeppelin/Blimp)?

Re:The First Always Kinda Sucks, Give It A Break (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236885)

The very same plane stayed in air for 24 h straight last year, to prove it could; this was covered on Slashdot. The solar panels charge its batteries and power its flight at the same time.

So now you want one in your garage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236499)

The payload really sucks in such air craft and not to mention the wing span alone is a head ache to park it and go. Also what happens on rainy days???

Re:So now you want one in your garage. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236633)

what happens on rainy days???

Its flight went over 27,000 feet, which is higher than average rain clouds (wiki says around 20,000 feet is typical). It may be able to just fly over the rainclouds. They'll still need to drive around the big storms, just like the big jets have to.

Cool but... (1, Insightful)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236613)

So all the people seeing this as progress, realize that in 30+ years solar panels have not improved significantly enough to be able to generate the kind of power required to move 2 people, let alone 100 or 300.

This is a nice novelty, but does not harken a new era in solar power flight until there is some fundamental improvements in solar power technology.

Re:Cool but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40236937)

Well, to be fair, you couldn't get very with a traditional areoplane, if you had to farm the fuel on board.

Re:Cool but... (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237071)

30 years ago it took about 2 hours of shine to get the world's first solar airplane to have enough power to fly for 3-5 minutes.

This thing can fly during night on charge it accumulates during the day while in the air.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_aircraft#Solar_Riser [wikipedia.org]

Re:Cool but... (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237805)

Yeah, I was a little surprised at the claim that this was the first solar powered plane.

My memory was of the Gossamer Penguin / Solar Challenger.

But yours is even earlier.

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

24 comments (1)

PeDRoRist (639207) | more than 2 years ago | (#40236619)

And still no Captain Piccard jokes. You know, I'm really getting worried about you, Slashdot.

Re:24 comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40239801)

It is "Picard". Please turn in your nerd card and don't visit Slashdot again.

Re:24 comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40242265)

I was refering to Bertrand Piccard with two Cs. You know, the guy who's behind Solar Impulse. The guy FTFA.
My nerd card stays in my pocket protector, thank you very much.

Note : Can't log in from this termnal.

Re:24 comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40249753)

But it wouldn't be Captain Piccard then you douche. You failed and then try to cover it up.

Say again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40237291)

For a moment I thought that a craft with impulse engines completed the first interstellar flight...

Coming to Skies Near You! - For Safety (Or Else)! (1)

ilikenwf (1139495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40237351)

24 Hour DHS monitoring drones - not only can they see you and your heat signatures through walls, but they can also intercept your cell phones and wireless networks!

Now I can feel safe!

Stock market tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40241217)

It’s a common saying that Share market [sharemarketzone.com] can change fortune in either way. Trading in volatile market can be very fruitful if you follow technical levels closely. Traders are advised to strictly follow technical analyses to increase their funds.

Good Lord (1)

DaKong (150846) | more than 2 years ago | (#40244821)

They flew an airplane 515 miles using nothing but the sun. They flew. Not drove, not sailed, not floated. It's impressive. Dead impressive. It's a vision of the world that could be.

I consign those who pooh-pooh this to go back and try to do something equally impressive without fossil fuels or equal cheats.

Circumnavigation is another ballgame (1)

eric02138 (1352435) | more than 2 years ago | (#40245423)

It's really great that someone is working on this.
However, SolarImpulse is shooting for an eventual round-the-world, non-stop flight. They're even designing a new plane:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Impulse#Planned_second_aircraft_.28HB-SIB.29 [wikipedia.org]

There's some major logistical challenges to go along with the technical challenges:
1) They need at least two pilots to spell each other (which means more weight)
2) The new plane would have to go faster - at 70kph, flying 40,000 km would take 24 days
3) There would need to be room for food and water (which, again would mean more weight)
4) They would need, uh, facilities (again, more weight)

I guess you could solve all of these problems by simply scaling up the plane. I think that might also break the record for longest wingspan...
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