One pilot, zero passengers and a message of inspiration are bound to make a trip in a solar-powered plane from one US coast to another on May 1. 12,000 photovoltaic solar cells cover the Solar Impulse's 64.4 meters wide wings providing it with enough power to make a flight without any need of jet fuel. The plan is to make a 7-10 days stop at every major city to educate people and advertise their support of sustainability and technology. The flight will take off from Mountain View, California and stop at Phoenix, followed by Dallas and then one city among Atlanta, Nashville or St. Louis. Solar Impulse will make a halt at Washington D.C. before reaching its final destination, New York.
The solar plane has made successful flights in the past including its first intercontinental flight from Spain to Morocco last June. The airplane was built with the original purpose of being able to fly at day as well as night. Consequently, the new goal is to make a continuous flight of five days and five nights in near future. Each leg of the flight for the US trip will last for around 20 to 25 hours. All this, achieved by a single pilot, leaves little time to rest but pilots are trained for the challenge. An autopilot system is also in the works. Solar Impulse is scheduled to reach New York's Kennedy airport in early July.
At a top speed of 50mph this probably isn't the most efficient route to take from coast to coast, but who is to say that progress can't be made. While Solar aviation isn't a new concept, this airplane achieves more than its predecessors by making a flight in night with a pilot on board. And here's to the hope that next-gen solar air-travel will do much more.
Source: Solar Impulse