Solar-Powered Plane Keeps Going And Going And . . .
Just like the Energizer Bunny, the Zephyr keeps going and going. However, this unmanned aircraft is not powered by an Energizer battery but, by Solar Power!
Hand-launched about two weeks ago, the light aircraft has already shattered all records set by itself and other solar-powered aircraft and, there is no end in sight yet!
Manufactured by British defense technology company, QinetiQ, the airplane weighs just over 110lbs and has a wingspan of 74 feet. The aircraft's wings are covered with thin paper-like amorphous silicon solar arrays that not only deliver enough solar power for it to fly during the day-time, but also, help charge the lithium-sulphur batteries that provides energy for the plane to continue flying at night.
The Zephyr has been in development since 2007. The first prototype, which had a wingspan of about 60 feet and weighed a little over 60lbs, was able to fly non-stop for 54 hours. Thanks to a larger wingspan, allowing for inclusion of more batteries and a more aerodynamic design, the latest version has now flown for more than 200 hours and is showing no signs of stopping.
QinetiQ evenutually hopes to make Zephyr an 'eternal' unmanned solar-powered aircraft that can be used for communications and other commercial, as well as, security purposes. As the technology continues to evolve, it may also pave the way for the possibility of Solar-Powered passenger flights in the near future.