Flight training has already started for Solar Impulse, a 100% solar-powered plane, to be flown around the world in 2011. Using computerized simulation, the mission team is training while the construction of the prototype is in the making.
The technology used on this type of aircraft is very unique. The photovoltaic cells on the plane would gather energy in the batteries during the day to power the engines at night. Solar Impulse will have a 262 feet wingspan covered with photovoltaic cells to power 40kW engines. The Solar Impulse will be able to move its 4,409 pounds carbon-fiber body at an altitude of 39,370 feet while maintaining about 44 mph.
There will only be 1 pilot flying the solar plane which will leave him faced with one question each night, which is to find an economical way of using the stored energy. The airplane needs to reach “useful sunlight” before the batteries are completely discharged. Engineers from Omega will be applying their knowledge to help calculate these timely measurements. Quite suspenseful.