solar powered plane

What we know about Solar Aviation so far

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The first airplane piloted by the Wright Brothers was powered by a mixture of gas and self-propulsion, which means that modern aircraft have come a long way. Modern aircraft are sophisticated machines powered by delicate measurements, strong technological tools, and of course, a fuel source. However, a new type of energy is on its way into the world of aviation, even though it’s been around since the dawn of time.

solar powered aircraft

Image Credits: Skydweller Aero

The Dawn of Solar Powered Aviation

Aerospace engineers have since turned their attention to solar-powered aircraft, and the results are nothing short of stunning. This is not the first time solar-powered airplanes have been on the drafting table, as photovoltaic panels were explored in the 1970s as a potential solution to the fuel crisis. While the crisis passed, the search for alternative fuels did not, and solar aviation technology is now closer than ever to being fully operational.

How Do Solar-Powered Aircraft Work?

Modern solar-powered prototypes still use photovoltaic panels and rely on solar irradiance to capture and then convert into electrical energy. The idea is actually quite plausible given the closer proximity of planes to the sun once they ascend into the higher levels of the earth’s atmosphere, which should assist in solar collection.

The current working theory is to place solar cells over a dedicated region of a plane, such as the tail or the wings. Of course, certain elements will come into play, such as the available sunlight and the direction the plane is traveling since that will alter the orientation of the panels.

Once collected, the energy will be processed via a circuit that will then output the power to the electrical systems that actually power the plane. Solar-powered planes will not be completely dependable on the sun. Much like solar-powered vehicles will also be outfitted with batteries charged continuously when excess energy is converted.

Latest and Greatest Solar Aviation News

The last solar aviation prototype, the Zephyr, recently performed a flight test over Arizona and performed reasonably well. The un-crewed aerial vehicle was flown in the stratosphere for 18 days and transmitted promising data. While the test was intended to see if the Zephyr aircraft could spread 5G and 6G into distant and remote locations across the globe, it also proves that solar-powered aircraft, including drones, is an immediate possibility.

Future of Solar Aviation

Solar aviation is an extremely attractive way to reduce the large carbon footprint of aircraft, but there are some limitations. Due to their unique nature, production costs are high, and the systems are inefficient. In addition, the current utilization ratio of solar-source energy is only 11%, which means that about 89% of all potential energy is lost, which means extensive further research is still needed.

While Flex Air may not have solar aircraft (yet), we do have a fleet of airplane and helicopter charters ready to get you where you need to go. If you are looking for a private charter, contact Flex Air here today.