A bright idea: Solar plane is crossing the USA

Solar plane: The plane Solar Impulse is making a cross-country trek over the USA.
Solar plane: The plane Solar Impulse is making a cross-country trek over the USA.Courtesy © Solar Impulse | Revillard |
It's one flight down and four more to go for Solar Impulse, the completely solar airplane that's soaring its way across the USA. Solar Impulse flew from San Francisco to Phoenix on May 3, taking a shade over 18 hours to complete the trip. Over the next couple months, it will fly legs to Dallas, St. Louis, Washington D.C. and New York City with the New York trip scheduled to conclude in early July.

For the stat freaks, the solar plane averaged a speed of 40 miles an hour at an average altitude of 10,000 feet. It soared to a maximum altitude of 21,000 feet over the 650 mile trip. And yes, it took off and landed in the dark.

More information about the Solar Impulse project can be found at its website here and to follow its progress flying across the country.

So how does a solar airplane work exactly?

Made of carbon fiber, the plane has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 (208 feet) and the weight of a small car (3,527 lbs). It is the result of seven years of intense work by a team of about 80 people and 100 partners and advisors. The 12,000 solar cells built into the wing provide four 10 horsepower electric motors with renewable energy. By day the solar cells recharge lithium batteries which allow the plane to fly at night. Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard (chairman) and André Borschberg (CEO) are the founders, pilots and the driving forces behind Solar Impulse.

The plane made its first night flight in 2010 and has a record endurance flight of 26 hours, 10 minutes, 19 seconds.

Solar Impulse wants to inspire and motivate as many people as possible throughout its journey across America. “We want to show that with clean technologies, a passionate team and a fa-reaching pioneering vision one can achieve the impossible.” said Piccard, adding “If we all challenged certitudes by driving change and being pioneers in our everyday lives, we can create innovative solutions for society’s biggest challenges.”

Here's some more nitty gritty about the plane's specs and future:
• The electricity produced by the solar panels is about the same as needed to run a scooter for 24 hours.
• The light plane is sensitive to turbulence. Winds cannot exceed 11.5 miles per hour at take off and crosswinds at takeoff can be no more than 4.6 miles per hour.
* A second plane is now being constructed.
* Solar Impluse has a goal of making an around-the-world trip in 2015, with 2-3 day flights over continents and 4-6 day legs over oceans.

And just to prove it actually flies, here's video shot in the San Francisco skies before Solar Impulse began its USA journey.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Charlottecristin's picture
Charlottecristin says:

To MAKE FUTURE EARTH Solar panels are installed at every home.
one of the most important step of USA government is the installation of solar panels at WHITE HOUSE roofs.

posted on Thu, 05/23/2013 - 11:42pm
Alternate Energy's picture

Great рoѕt. ӏ used to be checking constаntly thіs weblog and I'm impressed! Extremely useful info specially the closing section :) I maintain such info a lot. I used to be seeking this particular info for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

posted on Fri, 07/12/2013 - 3:36pm
denis_smith's picture
denis_smith says:

Solar panels should be installed at each and every home.

posted on Thu, 09/11/2014 - 4:33am
Solar Impulse Book's picture

Im fascinated by solar flight, think about it, its truly a game changer and an inspiration for engineers of the present and future.

posted on Sun, 11/09/2014 - 10:20pm
jason Galloway 's picture
jason Galloway says:

I always wonder why we cant use the sea's and oceans by boreing tunnels and using tides to make hydro electricity,I also think we should put world industry in deserts,build solar panelled cities in deserts,and do all

there and garden and care for our planet,and all our dangerous waste why cant we blast it into the sun,we don't want it here,dreamer aren't I,but that's my idea of a proper planet,like to hear back

posted on Sat, 07/04/2015 - 8:32am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options