With concerns about limited energy sources, solar power is becoming one of the hottest trends in tech development. Still, the fact that the first solar-powered plane has started a cross-country journey in the U.S. is incredible to most. The ultra-lightweight solar-powered plane, named Solar Impulse, is powered by the sun’s rays along with on-board batteries for reserve power. During it’s cross-country flight, not a drop of fuel will be utilized, making it the first flight of its kind.
The flight, which took off from San Francisco, California for the first of five segments of the trip, will reach an altitude of round 21,000 feet. A live feed on the plane’s website will broadcast the aircraft’s altitude, speed and location along with interior and exterior camera views. Two pilots, the founders of the plane, will take turns navigating.
That first leg of the trip concluded 18 hours after takeoff in Phoenix, Arizona. Although the plane travels much slower than traditional airlines (the average speed is about 43 miles per hour or 69 km per hour), the technology is still in development and further advances will likely lead to faster planes. Also, the plane’s costs are significantly diminished thanks to the use of solar power and battery power as opposed to fuel.
High fuel prices have caused air travel to become more expensive in more recent years. However, travelers have found great alternatives in terms of deals on accommodations and transportation which have allowed them to make up for that extra cost. New technologies like solar-powered flight may one day contribute to the growing means of transportation both in and around the U.S.
A few hurdles continue to stand in the way of solar power as a practical energy source for air flight. First, the plane’s lightweight design means that it cannot stand up to strong winds. Rain and clouds are also adverse conditions that which produce only minor setbacks for regular passenger planes while delaying a solar-powered flight for hours or even days.
Naturally, the inventors of this solar-powered airplane and the proponents of solar energy continue to work hard to improve the plane’s design and usability. For the time being, however, these achievements prove that we live in an exciting time where major advances in technology and green energy are being made each and every day.