May 27, 2009

First Manned, Solar-Powered Airplane

The Sunseeker II can fly with a pilot aboard using only the power of the sun and the energy stored in its solar-powered batteries.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) powered by the sun have been around for a while, but the Sunseeker II claims to be the first, solar-powered, manned aircraft.

It's a hybrid that uses energy stored in its bettery to take off and gain altitude. Then it kicks into a a gliding mode and begins to store and run on solar power. To climb, battery power is tapped as needed. The batteries can be charged to capacity in just 90 minutes.

Above the clouds, where the daytime sun is always bright, the Sunseeker achieves maximum performance. Under full and direct sun, it can clip through the sky at about 40 mph. Tap the batteries and it can get up to about 80 mph.


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