Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Solar Impulse Airplane To Launch First Sun-Powered Flight Across America

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the guided-by-the-light dept.

Power 89

First time accepted submitter markboyer writes "The Solar Impulse just landed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California to announce a journey that will take it from San Francisco to New York without using a single drop of fuel. The 'Across America' tour will kick off this May when founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg take off from San Francisco. From there the plane will visit four cities across the states before landing in New York."

cancel ×

89 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Wonderful, but see it for what it is (2, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310615)

At 43mph, they're entirely at the mercy of local weather conditions. And "without using a single drop of fuel"? Tish. Factor in the fuel used by the support crew as they fuss around it. Don't like that? Then let's see them do it without support.

Even with fantasy efficiency, there's no mass-to-surface-area that could make this a commercially viable form of transport, ever. It's a beautiful folly, and an impressive exercise in materials science, and should be enjoyed on that basis. The PV aspect is essentially a gimmick though.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43310657)

Not commercially viable? Are you kidding me? With a solar plane the sky's the limit!

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (3, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310685)

Actually, it seems like space would be the limit unless they give it a solar powered ion thruster. The ground is another limit, in the other direction... and unlike space, the ground is a much more... solid limit.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43310723)

That whooshing sound you hear is not the solar airplane flying overhead.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43310763)

Something tells me you don't understand the principles of lift at high altitude and the specific thrust of ion engines. An ion engine can't even lift itself.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311181)

Something tells me you don't understand what space is. I never said anything about using the ion engine to get to space, just that it would be needed in space.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311051)

You should go play Kerbal Space Program. See how far you can get with a glider and an ion engine.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (-1, Flamebait)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310687)

Commercial viability? No way. I wouldn't be surprised if most of their stops were required simply to 'top off' their batteries on the ground. And they'll be using a hell of a lot of fuel - in the form of electricity from batteries, which isn't measured in drops.

Also: a person make it across the US in a car in half that time, with a similar number of stops. This is, like you said, a gimmick. I'd be curious to see someone use a similar airframe (ultralight) and get across the US at a higher speed, with fewer stops, using a small gas engine - it's probably possible. That little area doesn't supply enough electricity to powerful much of anything usefully via PV, and PV cells are still quite heavy. You can run a pair of two single cylinder ICEs for a long time on 50 pounds of fuel, and I'm sure their PV setup's batteries alone are several times that.

Oh, and they probably use the grid to charge their batteries before liftoff. But that's not important.

I wonder, though: how fast could a person parasail across the US? I'm guessing that, with the right equipment, they could average at least 20mph. In the grand scheme of things, that's not that much worse than 43mph.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311381)

Considering typical prevailing winds and thermals over the lower 48, they can likely go a lot further than they did on the same amount of charge during their earlier flights back in Europe. Weather could be a big snag, but that's mostly up to chance anyways. As for landing? Got to eat, rest, and go to the toilet sometime or other.

What I'm really curious about is what airports they'll be using along the way. There might be a chance to go and check it out if it stops somewhere close enough.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

Shotgun (30919) | about a year and a half ago | (#43312255)

This is, like you said, a gimmick.

Heh, they're just following in the footsteps of those Wright brothers, and that Lindbergh guy.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (4, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310791)

Even with fantasy efficiency, there's no mass-to-surface-area that could make this a commercially viable form of transport, ever. It's a beautiful folly, and an impressive exercise in materials science, and should be enjoyed on that basis. The PV aspect is essentially a gimmick though.

I agree that we have reached the limits of technology. There will be no future innovation. The endpoint of humanities social and cultural evolution was yesterday.

And it's fossil fuels from here on in.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311029)

You do realize that if it weight nothing and was to lift a small child, What size the solar array at 100% efficiency mid day fall/spring would need to be given an imposable low drag wing???? It ain't going to happen. Other great almost impossible thing maybe but not a solar plane with a commercial freight/passenger payload. Maybe as a radio/surveillance platform for low wind conditions.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

Hunter Shoptaw (2655515) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311233)

I believe the point was that you are using your on knowledge of today's materials to establish a forecast on what is possible in the future. In this is where we find err, since there are likely technologies in the future that could quite possibly create the means for a system like this to work.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311359)

No, he's using our knowledge of physical limitations. He said even with perfect materials and 100% energy conversion, etc, this isn't ever going to be viable for transferring heavy payloads (ie hundreds of passengers).

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

Hunter Shoptaw (2655515) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311495)

But how do we define "perfect" materials? And his illustration was with no frame weight and a small child as a payload, not as a commercially viable payload.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311679)

Perfect as in: can convert 100% of radiated solar energy into electrical energy, weights nothing, has no aerodynamic drag, does not collect dust and debris from the atmosphere, etc :p

His illustration was not that it was impossible to lift a small child, simply that you need a very large PV array just to lift this small child, even with perfect materials. Solar is never going to replace any of the real gas guzzling aircraft that carry hundreds of passengers. Not to say it isn't interesting or useful to continue developing solar tech, but some other tech would be necessary to make general commercial flights greener.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (2)

claar (126368) | about a year and a half ago | (#43312743)

Solar is never going to replace any of the real gas guzzling aircraft that carry hundreds of passengers.

Hahaha.. I love statements like this.

How about a craft with mile-wide wings that unfold at altitude? How about solar power being beamed to the craft from a ground or satellite system (still qualified as solar powered in my book)? The old adage "never say never" exists for a reason.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#43329153)

You want thousands of commercial planes to have mile-wide wing spans? That's pretty dangerous - not to mention that the maintenance required to keep something like that feasible would be crazy.

Okay, I'll revise it to "craft powered purely by their own solar panels aren't going to replace commercial aircraft". Not unless everyone gets their own personal plane/flying car at least.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a year and a half ago | (#43314737)

Perfect as in: can convert 100% of radiated solar energy into electrical energy,

380 yottawats ought to be enough for anybody.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

Hunter Shoptaw (2655515) | about a year and a half ago | (#43314911)

Apparently not.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#43316377)

, but some other tech would be necessary to make general commercial flights greener.

That was the point of my sarcastic comment.

Am I the only one who remembers several discussions just a few short years back where similar naysayers were telling us how we'd never see quantum computing? That it was all just theoretical and we'd never actually see one working?

For some reason, a group of people here believe that energy (especially for transportation) is some special case, and that it's just silly to even think about every using anything but refined petroleum or scarce fissionable material to make anything move or work. The same people who will gladly engage in the certainty that we'll see intergalactic space exploration.

It's a fascinating phenomenon, this hostility toward all energy that does not require rending the Earth to extract some expensive and dangerous fuel. And it shows itself every time any story mentions renewable energy in any form.

Even a story about a fantastic high-tech project like this proof-of-concept aircraft seems to make some people just so darn mad. The kind of thing that normally excite nerds brings out a dedicated group (many of whom rarely engage in any other discussion) to tell us how stupid and impossible the whole thing is. I wonder what that's about?

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43312037)

OMG! It's the end of science, again. At least we'll go out with a bang.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43312059)

Came here for this. Made my day. Thanks

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43312195)

I agree that we have reached the limits of technology. There will be no future innovation. The endpoint of humanities social and cultural evolution was yesterday.

And it's fossil fuels from here on in.

Strawman arguments are lies.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43310913)

At 43mph, they're entirely at the mercy of local weather conditions. And "without using a single drop of fuel"? Tish. Factor in the fuel used by the support crew as they fuss around it. Don't like that? Then let's see them do it without support.

Even with fantasy efficiency, there's no mass-to-surface-area that could make this a commercially viable form of transport, ever. It's a beautiful folly, and an impressive exercise in materials science, and should be enjoyed on that basis. The PV aspect is essentially a gimmick though.

Fine. Then use it as a crop duster. Hell, make solar-powered drones for that matter. Plenty of pointless demand for those damn things to justify the fuel savings (well, kind of).

The point is not every form of flight is specifically designed to haul the obese (m)asses and their 200 pounds of first-world essentials around. Try opening your mind a bit as to some of the uses this kind of hardware could provide, especially autonomously.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311231)

haha, it couldn't carry the pesticide for crop dusting, the thing is practically useless.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

plover (150551) | about a year and a half ago | (#43314863)

Of course it could carry the pesticide, but this aircraft is not designed for that. Lose the weight of one of the pilots, lose the weight of most of the batteries, and it would have plenty of lift capacity to haul several hundred pounds of payload.

There's a different issue, though, and that is if a 208 foot wingspan plane is practical for dusting a field, and the answer is obviously no. But the same technology could be used in a smaller aircraft that carries a 40 pound sack of dust, and autonomously piloted in a pattern over a field. Such autopilot systems are in common use today in farm tractors for planting, weeding, and harvesting crops, and hold a line with better than 10 cm accuracy. There is no technical reason they couldn't pilot an unmanned pesticide drone accurately over a field. If 40 pounds covers 40 acres, and it takes 16 separate refill flights to cover a square mile, so what? You don't have to pay an autopilot overtime, and you don't even have to buy this one fuel. One ground operator could probably keep four drones refilled and aloft, and if you automated and optimized the refilling process he could probably keep eight or more going at once.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311999)

No, this is an art project.

If you want to make a serious solar-powered plane for transportation of persons or goods, you should almost certainly have a ground-based solar-powered hydrogen plant and a hydrogen-powered plane. You get zero fossil-fuel emissions and a much greater energy density on board your aircraft, where you need it.

On the other hand, if the purpose of solar power is to have "in-flight refueling" for an autonomous drone or something, you'd be better off with a solar-powered blimp than a solar-powered fixed-wing aircraft. Especially because a blimp can stay up at night.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

magarity (164372) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311431)

Even with fantasy efficiency, there's no mass-to-surface-area that could make this a commercially viable form of transport, ever

It doesn't have to be commercially efficient for the government to use one as a 24/7 drone watching for dissidents.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (2)

hey! (33014) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311715)

This is how America has become a nation of creative eunuchs: myopic focus on near-term profit. Commercial viability? Why the hell would you expect a beyond the bleeding edge technological adventure to be commercially viable? Hell, Columbus' voyage was not commercially viable, although it ultimately brought fabulous weatlh to Spain. The Wright Brothers' Kitty Hawk plane wasn't commercially viable, but it made the brothers rich men. The civilian space program was not initially commercially viable, it was initially an act of national vanity and competitive paranoia. It paid for itself many times over in remote sensing and communication satellites. Yes, I know about Clarke's 1945 proiposal for geostationary communication satellites, but if *that* had been the motivating factor, there'd never have been funding for the Explorer program (1958- present). It took the threat of the Soviets gaining access to and control of the high frontier for us to make the leap into the financial dark.

The capacity to do something amazing is valuable in itself, because it is a step into the unknown. In the unknown is plenty of space for more timid imaginations to construct "commercial viability".

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year and a half ago | (#43312025)

The intent of the Columbus voyage was to find a new commercial trading route to reduce time and resource expenditures involved in acquiring lucrative goods. It was an attempt to corner a market and become very, very rich.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

hey! (33014) | about a year and a half ago | (#43312415)

Yes, but it was a stupid attempt that maritime experts (the Portuguese) wouldn't dream of considering.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year and a half ago | (#43312529)

The term is "venture". It was a venture project. It had a monetizing plan, whereas this has no monetizing plan.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

hey! (33014) | about a year and a half ago | (#43312573)

It had a monetizing plan that was incorrect in almost every particular. The only virtue to Columbus' plan was that it convinced someone to underwrite his expedition, which was spectacularly poorly managed.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43313737)

Absolutely. The Fleischmann–Pons device was not commercially viable, although it ultimately.... no, wait....

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311947)

Gosh Captain Obvious, how are the Koch Bros. getting on?

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about a year and a half ago | (#43313595)

Who needs it for transport? This could be a good alternative to cell towers, weather satellites, and so on.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43313787)

Just wait for their return flight...Oh wait, they go so slow that they couldn't fly it east to west. I can see it now. A flight from Vegas to LA would take 2 months, since they'd have to take the long way around the earth.

Re:Wonderful, but see it for what it is (1)

BarfooTheSecond (409743) | about a year and a half ago | (#43317713)

Wright's plane wasn't commercially viable too.

Obligatory pun (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310617)

I'm sure the founders are hoping this idea will take off!

Re:Obligatory pun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43310877)

No.

The good thing is... (4, Funny)

theillien (984847) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310695)

...since the plane doesn't have fuel it can't crash and burn. It can only crash.

Re:The good thing is... (1)

QuesarVII (904243) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310867)

Apparently you haven't learned the important life lessons from Family Guy. Even an amish wagon can explode when it crashes. The horses too.

Re:The good thing is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311031)

don't forget exploding bicycles... on the seafloor...

Re:The good thing is... (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#43330743)

...since the plane doesn't have fuel it can't crash and burn. It can only crash.

It has a battery though, and it could be lithium-ion based...

... AND THE SLOWEST !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43310703)

Sun power is for the birds !!

"To show the world 'power of green technology'" (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310705)

I like the optimism. I love the plane.

But the optimism is rather misplaced. Let's be realistic: by their own words, it takes wings the size of a jumbo jet's (A340) to hold enough solar cells to fly one person at 43 miles an hour, while also having to be extremely light. Even if we assume only needing half or a quarter of the duration/endurance, say 3 hours of night travel, or even no night travel so no batteries and just day time use on cell power, that's still a fairly large amount of cells taking up a lot of space. And reailisticlly, it's gonna need the batteries even on day use to account for cloud cover to keep engine output optimum. In order words, so far the "power of greeen technology", or at least the solar variety, is terribly impractical for air travel. and it will remain so until it can be used to fly at least a small commuter plane load of passengers (30-70 persons).

I can see a business case for this (5, Insightful)

CdBee (742846) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310731)

But not as air transport. If it can fly without need for refuelling, it can stand in for a communications satellite, endlessly and automatically circling one spot above the cloud level

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310789)

How do you deal with night?
Sure altitude can be used to store power, gain altitude during day, glid down at night, but will that last the whole duration?

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

samwichse (1056268) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310831)

The same way it currently does, by storing power in the batteries during the day.

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310961)

Which right now requires landing, so that clearly is not an option.

Re:I can see a business case for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311459)

The plane has already been in the air for 24 h straight, just to prove it would not crash at night.

Re:I can see a business case for this (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311505)

Where does it say that?

TFA says "Excess energy is stored in 4 lithium polymer batteries that provide backup power for night flights."

On the project website, it talks about gliding down during the night to conserve energy from battery usage, and cruising up during the day.

I can't find anywhere that says it needs to land to charge its batteries.

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311609)

My mistake, you're right.

Just so you know you're not supposed to read the article before commenting. It makes you look like a noob if you actually read the article.

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311685)

Yeah, I know. but that part bothered me especially if it was true. So I had to go verify it.

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311599)

No it doesn't. What part of non-stop do you not understand?

Re:I can see a business case for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311219)

How do you deal with night?

How do you deal with night?

Most people sleep.

Perhaps we need to stop being so damn ignorant about how we treat certain types of business services while the building is empty, and let them sleep too.

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311435)

Maybe you need to stop being so ignorant. Things have to get done at night, like bridge repair or a whole world of things that cannot be done during the day. Those folks doing that work need communication and services too.

On top of that, the whole world is not one timezone.

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310937)

ok, but how is it better than a satellite?

rhetorical question, because i already know the answer. the satellite needs expend almost no energy to maintain position, whereas the aircraft needs to fly, and if something breaks it crashes. the main advantage is speed of deployment, thus lending itself as a temporary solution. but in the end, the satellite, unless completely unfeasible, is the superior solution.

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

CdBee (742846) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311171)

I was thinking in terms of temporary coverage - IE, hanging over the mountains of Afghanistan to give radio coverage to an operation in a valley, flying over a sports event to give fast uplink to media staff, trailing round-the-world yacht races for constant coverage and communications

Re:I can see a business case for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311393)

I think you forgot the vast amount of energy spent to get the satellite into position.

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

Eevee (535658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310965)

You've just rediscovered Stratovision [wikipedia.org] !

Re:I can see a business case for this (1)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311889)

Given that there is no or very little wind.

Re:"To show the world 'power of green technology'" (4, Insightful)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310759)

It amy not hae any practical value, but it does have PR value.

Did Lindbergh, or Earhart do anything practical with their feats? Did Gagarin, or Glenn, or Armstrong?

Not really. But they did keep the public's mind on things which otherwise it may not have. This can be used as a diversion, but it can also be used to help drive technology forward.

Maybe some people decide to put solar panels on their house. Maybe it drives some investors imaginations into funding the technology (or the government) and advancing the art. Maybe some kid sees it and gets inspired. Years later he goes to Harvard and makes an advance that makes solar energy more feasible as an energy source.

My point is, you cannot sit in your basement being all cynical, stroking your neckbeard, and saying it doesn't work, so there is no point. People NEED to get out and try. They need to capture imaginations.

By the way, I do not mean to say that YOU have a neckbeard or live in a basement, but am talking about that general cynical attitude often found here. An attitude that I contribute to more often than I like to admit.

Re:"To show the world 'power of green technology'" (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310975)

their accomplishments actually did have practical value, showing it was possible to fly across the ocean. but they also didnt oversell what they did.

and that's essentially what im saying, is that these guys are overselling their project; that solar power as a practical propulasion system has almost no place in airplanes, because the energy density and engineering design required to use it simply arent there.

Re:"To show the world 'power of green technology'" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311407)

but they also didnt oversell what they did.

LOL. Historical Myopia.

Those folks named were international heros & symbols for doing what they did.

The current folks are just following in their footsteps because it worked so well before.

Re:"To show the world 'power of green technology'" (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311643)

I've heard a couple of interviews with this guy, and they are not overselling. Not by any stretch.
Theya re completelty upfromnt aout the realities.
People like doing things oin the edge. The same guy piloting the place also did hot air balloon trips..around the world.

" system has almost no place in airplanes"
becasue what they learn can't be applied elsewhere?

Stopping bitching becasue some is doing something adventurous.

Re:"To show the world 'power of green technology'" (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311627)

UM, billions of dollars comes from the practical application of technology developed for the Apollo mission. The Apollo mission as paid for itself more then 13 times over.

Re:"To show the world 'power of green technology'" (1)

stridebird (594984) | about a year and a half ago | (#43315169)

UM you say that with a lot of confidence. More that 13 times over? How precise is that? I think you'll find it's pretty hard to enumerate the value of technology transfer from the space missions. Most of it was pretty good tech for, er, space. Not so much really bled out into other sectors. It's all pretty hard to quantify and any estimates are pretty woolly.

Re:"To show the world 'power of green technology'" (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310769)

There is a solution to this;
Use solar derived electricity to crack water, then use this combined with CO2 derived from whatever source you like to make jet fuel. Or just make biodiesel and refine that into jetfuel. If you can get away without having to meet the JetA specs it should not be that hard. Turbines are pretty flexible.

An article about this tech:
http://www.gizmag.com/air-fuel-synthesis-gasoline-from-air/24739/ [gizmag.com]

Yes, it is a very lossy process, but the energy density of liquid hydrocarbons is hard to match.

Re:"To show the world 'power of green technology'" (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310885)

If you are going to crack water, then just use fuel cells with the H and O. Why reduce efficiency by adding another process in the middle?

Re:"To show the world 'power of green technology'" (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310943)

Because turbines can be bought now, find me such a fuel cell that I can buy. Also storing H and O completely destroys the entire energy density storage of my plan. To make matters worse storing H2, is a huge PITA. It embrittles metal, leaks through everything and likes to pool in structures under roofs making it a hazard in buildings not designed for it.

What a joke (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43310713)

Each leg of the journey is expected to take no more than 24 hours, and the team plans to stop at schools and host live conversations with the pilots in flight to spread the team’s spirit of innovation and show the power of green technology.

Yep, a super expensive plane that averages only 43 mph with no practical application pretty much sums up the "power of green technology."

Ornithopter (2)

Westwood0720 (2688917) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310775)

Now we're talking.

Solar powered aircraft (2)

stud9920 (236753) | about a year and a half ago | (#43310881)

Solar powered aircraft has been available for the better part of a century now. It's called sailplanes. And they're probably more practical.

Re:Solar powered aircraft (0)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311215)

that's pretty much what these "solar craft" are, a glider with wings big enough to hold enough solar panels for a teeny tiny motor. a non-practical farce that does not advance any state of the any art.

Re:Solar powered aircraft (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311681)

Why is it a farce? hmm?

You people must be the most boring people in the world in your real life. Someone decided to do something adventurous. You people just whine.

They aren't doing making any claim, and the admit that you can't make a practical PV aircraft. These are people who like to travel the world in hot air balloon.

"that does not advance any state of the any art."
why does it have to?

That said, what cells are the using? what did they learn from wiring it up? How are the dealing with the harsh conditions?

There is plant to be learned.

First? I think not. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43311517)

http://www.solar-flight.com/sunseeker/index.html

During August of 1990, The Sunseeker crossed the country in 21 flights, with 121 hours in the air.

First this century, perhaps.

Re:First? I think not. (1)

UTF-8 (680134) | about a year and a half ago | (#43312393)

They didn't mention that it was the first. There is one difference though. This solar plane can fly all night. The Sunseeker had no rechargeable batteries to do that.

Re:First? I think not. (1)

skine (1524819) | about a year and a half ago | (#43315539)

My first thought it that it might be the first non-stop cross-country flight. Not so.

"The cross-country tour will begin in the Bay Area and end in New York, with stops in Phoenix, Dallas and Washington DC in between. Solar Impulse will also land in either Atlanta, Nashville or St. Louis, with the plane and its pilots set to stay in each locale for about a week to ten days to talk about the project before moving on."

http://www.engadget.com/2013/03/28/solar-impulse-across-america/ [engadget.com]

Solar, mobile cell towers (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311541)

I remember that this was a driving motivation for the technology. If a solar powered aircraft could launch cell tower processing and hold it aloft long enough on battery power (at night), then this would be a great idea. Especially in rural parts of the country where being able to shift positions to service local needs would be great.

Cheating (0)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311721)

San Francisco to New York? Why no return flight from New York to San Francisco? Pretty sure it doesn't have anything to do with major jet streams moving http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_stream [slashdot.org] "> west to east. How do they get back to the west coast? Disassemble the plane and drive it back in an 18 wheeler?

Re:Cheating (2)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43311877)

Oh no, the Apollo missions launched from a southerly location in the US to increase the boost from the earth's rotation! The worthless cheaters! We haven't really put a man on the moon until we've launched from Maine, and picked up burgers at a drive-through in California on the flight out!

Re:Cheating (1)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year and a half ago | (#43313489)

Oh, sure, except there was no asterisk there saying that we can get a man to point B, but not back to point A.

Hey, look, the plane is awesome. I wish them luck, they will need it with 43 mph air speed.

Re:Cheating (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43313675)

Alright, so a closer analogy would be saying Charles Lindbergh's non-stop transit of the Atlantic in a fixed-wing plane in 1927 was a sham, because he relied on the West to East jet stream --- Dieudonné Costes was the first to manage the more difficult Paris -> New York return flight in a heavier-than-air craft in 1930.

40hp = small motor scooter? (1)

Bartles (1198017) | about a year and a half ago | (#43312381)

I think not. 40hp is 40hp. At full power the motors are using almost 30,000 watts of power. That's assuming 100% efficient motors. They didn't say what cruising power requirements are, but 30,000 watts is a lot of power to move 1 person at 43mph. Even 7,000watts would be a lot of power to move one person at 43mph.

geographic differences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43313499)

Across America? or only EEUU? Those are very different achievements...
Please 'muricans, realize you are (a big) part of a big continent

Re:geographic differences (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43314167)

Across America east/west not north/south. Crossing the USA is crossing the whole continent. Easier to do it in Panama, of course.

Cute toy (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43314053)

Solar impulse is an over hyped, overly complex sailplane. That it uses new materials and can stay up all night is not an astounding accomplishment. The endurance record for an unpowered glider is over 56 hours and the distance record is 3,008 kilometers. Look ma no solar panels.

I get frustrated when I go to the Solar Impulse web site. It is like wading through vats of PR slime trying to find real information on how the aircraft really works. What are they trying to hide? Case in point, they say they have released an itinerary. All I see is a start date and a list of stopovers. There is not even an approximate schedule for these stopovers. I like the statement that local weather conditions will modify these dates. Wow, that does not seem to be very reliable to me if they can't even give a date plus or minus a few days.

Sorry but Solar impulse is a toy for rich people draining money from research that might actually go somewhere.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>