Do you remember when Amelia Earhart was the first female pioneer pilot who flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean? She broke several records because of this. Across the Atlantic Ocean?! That is approximately 41,105,000 square miles long, according to oceanservice.noaa.gov. Who would fly in an airplane more than that, for a longer time, in a smaller plane? Will someone even make it to their destination even before they run out of gasoline? Recently, there has been an ALL solar powered called Solar Impulse 2. Yes, you heard it, all solar powered. What is more surprising about this airplane was the journey that it took, as it is really outstanding!
Solar Impulse 2 Arrival Timeline
In the year of 2015, Solar Impulse began their attempt to their 'around-the-wrold trip.'
The Solar Impulse 2 took departure on March 9th, in the city of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Arrival 1: Leg 2 was on March 10th, 2015 where the Solar Impulse 2 landed in Muscat, Oman.
Arrival 2: Leg 3 was on March 18th, 2015 in Ahmedabad, India.
Arrival 3: Leg 4 was on March 18th, 2015 in Varanasi, India as well.
Arrival 4: Leg 5 was on March 29th, 2015 in Mandalay, Myanmar.
Arrival 5: Leg 6 of this historic journey was on April 20th, 2015 in Chongqing, China.
Arrival 6: Leg 7 was on May 30, 2015 in the city of Nanjing, China.
Arrival 7: Leg 8 was on June 28th, 2015 in Nagoya, Japan.
Arrival 8: Leg 9 was on April 21st, 2016 in Hawaii, USA.
Arrival 9: Leg 10 (Part: 1) was on April 24th, 2016 in San Fransisco, California, USA.
Arrival 10: Leg 10 (Part: 2) was on April 24th, 2016 in Mountain View, California, USA.
Probably the most outstanding milestone the Solar Impulse 2 has broken, has been to fly ACROSS the ENTIRE Pacific Ocean, and that is 9,600 miles long (15,500 km). The Solar Impulse 2 still hasn't completed what they are aiming for because in order to go all-around the world, the all solar powered airplane still needs to fly across the United States, the Atlantic Ocean, Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and then back to where they began, Ahu Dubai. So, it seems like the Solar Impulse plane is at the center and at the climax of their very long journey. It is very amazing that this small and compact plane can fly across almost AROUND THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD, being fully solar powered! (With only a couple stops in between). If the circumference of the world is 24, 901 miles long around the earth's equator, then a single airplane that is COMPLETELY powered by the sun's energy, it seems like if this was something impossible that wouldn't become a reality.
According to solarimpulse.com, they state in their webpage, "Solar Impulse is not the first solar airplane, but it is the first to fly day and night, without any fuel, only using energy stored in its batteries. It is also the first to have achieved an oceanic crossing: 5 days and nights from Nagoya, Japan, to Kalaeloa, Hawaii. Behind Solar Impulse’s achievements, there is always the same goal: show that if an airplane can fly several days and nights in a row with no fuel, then clean technologies can be used on the ground to reduce our energy consumption, and create profit and jobs." In other words, this means that the Solar Impulse 2 is a renewed model of being great example of making a difference for 'green' in the environment.
Before we understand the HOW the Solar Impulse 2 works, we need to know HOW solar panels work and proceed enough function to transfer power. According to highlightskids.com, they state that, '"One solar panel is made up of many small solar cells. Each of these cells uses light to make electrons move. The cell is made up of two different layers that are stuck together. The first layer is loaded with electrons, so the electrons are ready to jump from this layer to the second layer. That second layer has had some electrons taken away, so it is ready to take in more electrons. "When the light hits an electron in the first layer, the electron jumps to the second layer. That electron makes another electron move, which makes another electron move, and so on. It was the sunlight that started the flow of electrons, or electricity."' This means that the sun's rays are what feed the panels the energy in order to give something power and function. This whole procedure is caused by electro movements and how those are being used.
Now that we have taken a closer look at how solar panels work, we can now fully understand how the Solar Impulse 2 is able to work, being powered by the sun! As similar how a solar panel works, the Solar Impulse 2 basically just functions like a solar panel, The difference is that during the night, since obviously there is no sun, the Solar Impulse 2 contains the energy from the sun during the day, and keeps some solar cell energy to use during the night. Other than that, this airplane is being powered by the sun's energy, and it has pure solar panels at the top of the plane, so these panels can collect as much of the sun's energy as possible.
This plane is relatively one of the largest planes ever, being bigger in size than the Boeing 747. The Solar Impulse 2 has a 72 meter wingspan, weighs 2.3 tons, and has a number of 17, 248 number of solar cells in the solar panels. This airplane has an average speed of 75 kilometers per hour, and the maximum altitude it has reached so far in it's flights is 28,000 ft high up in the sky. Sadly, this plane has the capacity to only hold one pilot, which is Bertrand Piccard. Bertrand Piccard is a unique pilot to be commanding a great airplane like the Solar Impulse 2. According to wikipedia.org they clearly state, "Bertrand Piccard (born 1 March 1958) is a Swiss psychiatrist and balloonist. Along with Brian Jones, he was the first to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe. He is currently is the initiator, chairman and co-pilot of the first attempted round-the-world solar flight. Piccard was born in Lausanne, Vaud, a Swiss canton, into a family of explorers." Bertrand Piccard is really fortunate to be flying a 'historic' airplane in a worldwide flight journey, as he is indeed coming from a family of explorers, being one of the best pilots in the world.
in conclusion, it seems like a plane like the Solar Impulse 2 is going to be the future innovation of aviation and engineering. Who knows if the next planes of the future that we will be riding on will be all solar paneled? Since Bertrand Piccard's journey for the Solar Impulse 2 is not done yet, there are still more stops to be done, in order to complete the whole loop around the world. This is a huge milestone for the Solar Impulse 2 because they are figuring out the key to being 'green.' So does this mean that in the future of the aviation field, planes won't be gasoline powered? There has been success of this from electric cars, as we have seen, and now there is success of being 'green' in planes. What is next?
Recently, NASA wants to improve the use of aviation in the United States by building and designing quieter, faster and cleaner planes and jets. In order for NASA to achieve this goal of aviation, they are bringing back an experimental program for their X-Plane nearly around 2017. This will later-on improve the amount of people that are exposed to the new form of traveling which is along the air, in planes. (To learn more about NASA click here!) In the article, provided by digitaltrends.com, and article provided by gizmag.com, "NASA is ready to dive back into the X-plane field. “We’re at the right place, at the right time, with the right technologies,” said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. NASA will use the program to test cutting edge technologies, such as coatings that reduce bug buildup on wings and high-tech fans that reduce engine noise. NASA will use the next several years to design and prototype the vehicles, with the first flights planned for 2020. As part of this testing, NASA will work with major airlines." This means that, with the new technology that we have, NASA will be able to join other luxurious airlines for instance like: Delta Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic, just to name a few. Also, NASA states that they will be working on hybrid airplanes and jets meaning that they'll be using less gasoline, which would be considered 'green' and healthy for the environment. First, when NASA is building and designing their design of their plane, they build a prototype model in scale, that works sort of like a plan.
A project that NASA has in mind, is to create a jet that could be a supersonic aircraft. This aircraft would not travel faster than light, or faster than sound, but could go at an accelerating speed by using bio-fuels and have only one wing on one side in the design, that would minimize the sonic booms to a level against the ground. (The pressure when a jet/plane takes-off the earth's ground.) The one-sided wing idea could be another subsonic X-Plane according to gizmag.com. Also another target that NASA has, is working on a NOT SO LOUD noise when there's a take-off with one of their aircrafts. "The full potential of these technologies can't be realized in the tube-and-wing shape of today's aircraft. We need the X-planes to prove, in an undeniable way, how that tech can make aviation more Earth friendly, reduce delays and maintain safety for the flying public, and support an industry that's critical to our nation's economic vitality," says Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.
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