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back to article Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight

After 12 years of research and testing, the Swiss engineering team Solar Impulse has unveiled the craft that will take a round-the-world- trip powered solely by photovoltaic power cells. Solar Impulse 2 Coming soon to a skyline near you "A vision counts for nothing unless it is backed up by action," said Bertrand Piccard, …

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Bah!

So, you crap out of the window?

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Re: Bah!

The pilot will sit in the single reclinable seat (which doubles as a toilet)"

It sounds like the pilot lifts up the seat and its bombs away after that.

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Happy

Re: Bah!

"So, you crap out of the window?"

Yes.

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Re: Bah!

Seated in this hi-tech chair

This bog that cost a million bucks

Gravity is a myth my friends

The earth sucks!

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Re: Bah!

Hmm. Seems that 12.5% of commentards are not fans of Blackadder II.

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FYI... since the aircraft appears to be Swiss registered, and for the majority of the flight will not be in Chinese or Russian airspace, altitude would be specified in feet, not meters. And if you want to use MPH, that further suggests that feet are the appropriate unit. So what the aircraft will be doing is climbing to around 26,000ft (FL260) during the day, and descending to around 5,000ft at night.

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Terminator

Moody Planes

...but should the plane's attitude shift in-flight, vibrating bracelets on the pilot's wrists will signal an alert to get a human back on the controls.

I hate it when machines get attitudes and start trying to kill you.

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Re: Moody Planes

It's not the plane, it's gravity trying to kill you.

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Re: Moody Planes

Roger, gravity sucks.

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Re: Moody Planes

That would technically be a case of : Resistentialism: The seemingly spiteful behavior shown by inanimate objects.

I am wondering, given the minimal payload; what happens if the plane has to ditch in the sea, is there space and load capacity for a life raft or an airbed or is it down to inflating a packet of condoms in an emergency?

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Coat

Re: Moody Planes

Roger, gravity sucks.

Yeah, it can really get you down.

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Happy

Re: Moody Planes

It's not gravity, it's the ground trying to kill you.

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Re: Moody Planes

"what happens if the plane has to ditch in the sea"

Given the huge surface area of the wings + super light weight, they can probably function a a raft for the short time required before the pilot can be picked up.

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Re: Moody Planes

"It's not gravity, it's the ground trying to kill you."

Indeed. Gravity is merely trying to be helpful by getting you back on the ground as quickly as it can. It has no idea that ground is a serial killer.

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Linux

Flight Route

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zqS42va89qTY.kI9RV8qDLf7o

At no point does the route touch the Southern Hemisphere. I detect not-so-subtle 'Northism' here.

That aside, it does make sense to stay out of the South, since that half of the globe won't be getting a lot of sun during the northern summer. Obviously this implies the next big challenge: The Southern Around the World Solar Flight! Much harder, with all those nasty great ocean spans to cover.

I wonder if they have a chase boat? It would have to be a hydrofoil to keep up tho.

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Re: Flight Route

The flight plan is going the wrong direction to be flying in the Southern Hemisphere. If you fly that direction in the Southern Hemisphere you travel backwards in time and everybody knows you can't do that without serious repercussions.

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Re: Flight Route

I'd imagine it's because they don't want to take something that delicate through the inter tropical convergence zone (ITCZ). That's a more or less permanent line of thunderstorms around the equator, there's a degree of modification with time of year and land mass but either way the massive updrafts can push planes way above their operating limits, Flight of the Mew Gull by Alex Henshaw gives a vivid account of flying through it at night.

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Coat

Re: Flight Route

What, those solar panels can generate 1.21 Jigawatts? Wow...

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Thumb Up

Fascinating

Good luck to them

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Rather surprised by the lack of full autopilot.

Given that a proper one-CPU autopilot capable of long and complex missions can already be found on sub-1kg drones, I fail to see why a triplet-set of the same hasn't been installed.

The pilot only needs waking up if the autopilots disagree or have confusing/missing data (pitot frozen, GPS fix jump etc).

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@Richard 12

I agree. Seems silly they are bothering with a pilot at all really.

But certainly an ardupilot for 30 quid is more than capable of flying this (it doesn't care what size it is - and control surfaces are all the same).

Does add an interesting question or maybe a next project for lester ?

- build a small 'drone' (rc plane size) fixed wing, which has sufficient solar cells to fly indefinately - fully autonomous with ardupilot, etc: and let it take off and fly around the world. GSM where available can let it inform us of its location and send the odd picture. Be a great project.

OK... not strictly legal... but if it flew at around 10k feetish, it's unlikely to be spotted. It won't appear on radar because of size, and is no more a risk to aviation than a bird strike....

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Re: @Richard 12

It isn't an issue of 'bothering' with a pilot. It's an issue of using machines appropriately. As a guy who designs and builds machines of dizzying complexity I feel I am somewhat of an authority on the philosophies of mans use of machines.

Ultimately, the only thing man is actually capable of doing that is any different than any other animal is our ability to learn new things and combine that information with other information to drive the discovery of still more new information. Everything, from courting/dating instead of mating/raping all the way to standardized systems of trade and the laws that make it impossible for me to buy Antarctica are no more than the sum of decisions we, Man, have made based on previously known, or hypothesized, information about and the outcome of those decisions will be what we base future decisions on.

With that as our assumption it is a gross misuse of our abilities to build a machine to accomplish a feat that serves no purpose beyond removing the Human element as a requirement in accomplishing the feat. Machines, used appropriately, allow us to eliminate dangerous, difficult or menial tasks so that we can better focus our efforts meeting our purpose.

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That's why the top speed is limited to 86MPH

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Boffin

re:That's why the top speed is limited to 86MPH

To avoid time-travel problems!

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three times as light as

Three times as light as? Can you actually say that?

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Headmaster

Re: three times as light as

Of course - if 'as light as' is the linguistic equivalent of 'to the power of -1'. In this context, the 'three times' becomes 'three times to the power -1' or 'one third' in English. The correct inverse of 'light' is 'heavy' therefore:

'Three times as light as' == 'One third as heavy as'. QED.

This is the same lack of understanding about fractions as using multiples of 100%. I.e. 300% to mean 3x, probably because 300 is so much more impressive than 3. I believe this happens because English graduates don't understand that '300%' literally means '300 hundredths'.

I blame the government.

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Nearly as comfortable

It rather sounds a tad more comfortable than doing the same trip tourist class on the worlds airlines. At least you son't have to queue for the loo.

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Useful as a wireless relay perhaps.

If it can fly indefinitely then perhaps it'd be useful for wireless linking in the way proposed for blimps and balloons (ultimately, being powered, it might be easier to keep in a fixed location, albeit in somekind of circular orbit).

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pendant alert!

not flying solely on PV....it's running batteries at night! :P

Does it get enough power from sunlight to take off or will the batteries be precharged from sitting the aircraft out in the sun to allow for charging the day before and the use battery and PV for extra power?

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Re: pendant alert!

".... or will the batteries be precharged...."

Only enough charge is added to lift off and get up to the initial 8000m or so. The reason the aircraft starts its slow descent at sunset, is due to the increased power required to keep aloft the weight of all the excess energy collected during the day. /Stephen_Fry

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Headmaster

Re: pendant alert!

Extra down vote for not knowing/spotting the difference between pendant and pedant even if I agree about the batteries making it not pure PV powered.

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Please, please...

tell me that Bertrand Piccard holds the rank of Captain.

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Blimey

"The solar powered motors are a record-breaking 94 per cent efficient"

Blimey!

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Thumb Down

Idiocy of the first water.

Just because something can be done, does not mean that it must be done.

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Re: Idiocy of the first water.

That's quite all right, Mr. Scrooge. You go back to counting your pennies by candlelight while we celebrate this clever innovation.

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Re: Idiocy of the first water.

Even if it can't be done, there's still no reason to not try and do it anyway.

The reason being is that the small steps may be possible, even if the end target is impossible. I don't think this trip would be possible without engines of 94% efficiency. They have them now, but they didn't at the start. Meaning they started on an impossible task in the first place.

Haha, really loose logic that, but I think you know what I mean.

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Re: Idiocy of the first water.

It's just that the uses for a solar powered plane that, unnecessary pilot notwithstanding, need never land and has infinite range are few and somewhat ... worrying to contemplate.

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