As much as we’d like to see solar powered planes, flying above our cities, that’s just not a viable solution at the moment. However, British scientists (others, too, of course) are researching ways of building the sustainable plane and came up with a solar powered spy plane that managed to set an unofficial record – longest duration unmanned flight – by staying in the air for three and a half days.
Dubbed Zephyr, the ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre aircraft is actually a hybrid that uses solar power during the day and rechargeable lithium-sulphur batteries while flying at night.
Because they needed a lot of sun, the trial flight took place between July 28 and 31 in the Sonoran Desert where the temperature went up to 45 Celsius degrees. Launched by hand from the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, the plane flew on autopilot and reached an altitude of more than 60,000 ft. It stayed in the air for exactly 82 hours and 37 minutes.
When will we see Boeing or Airbus flying on solar power? Not anytime soon I suppose.