Sunseeker Duo makes first solar-powered passenger flight
The Sunseeker Duo becomes the first solar-powered airplane to carry two people
Last month, Solar Flight revealed that the team was working hard to get its Sunseeker Duo ready for the first passenger flights this (northern) summer. Today, the company announced that husband and wife team Eric and Irena Raymond have taken to the skies together, making the Duo the first solar-powered airplane to carry two people.
Gizmag first got to chat with Eric Raymond about the Sunseeker Duo at the Green Air Show in Paris, France four years ago, where we were shown a mockup of the cockpit. Raymond turned to Kickstarter in 2012 to raise development funds. Construction was completed by the close of last year, followed by system tests and tweaks before heading up into the skies for solo runs.
Solar Flight says that the Raymonds took off together in the company's third powered airplane from its test facility near Milan, Italy. For take off, the Duo uses energy harvested from the 1,510 solar cells on its wings and tail and stored in a battery pack in the fuselage. Once in the air, the airplane then cruises directly on solar power. The company claims that, with two people on board, it's capable of flights of 12 hours or more.
"Flying the Duo, skimming the white fluffy clouds from above and playing on the sky, I feel like a bird," said Irena Raymond. "No limitations, a pure freedom. It’s so quiet. Compared to a normal airplane, it’s like night and day. You need very good headset in other powered airplanes, but in the Duo you can speak normally even when the motor is running full power, no headset needed. It is unbelievable."
The Raymonds plan to make a 100 mile (160 km) trip to a neighboring airport next month to explore the Duo's cross-country capabilities as part of continuing flight tests.
Source: Solar Flight
About the Author
While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.
All articles by Paul Ridden
I think that is way cool. I think that would sail planes more affordable since it can launch itself and not have to rely on tow planes. It is also great since it is so quiet.
If they claim 12 hours of flight time with 2 people on solar power alone isn't going 100 miles to a neighboring airport mostly trivial?
Also, I read an article that said Sunseeker I crossed the US in 1990 over 21 flights and 121 hours in the air. That puts his average flight time in 1990 a little under 6 hours each.
On their website it says the solar panels on the Duo are 50% more efficient than the Sunseeker II (from 2009) and battery tech has improved immensely since 1990 so I want to say the same journey today would have to be a lot easier than it would have been 25 years ago. Just needing to stop at fewer airports along the way and having an iPad + GPS would have to be pretty useful.
If the flight across the USA took 121 hours, that calculates to a rather leisurely pace, and a trip of 100 miles is not so trivial. Since the passengers are recumbent, I was thinking that a crankset hooked to a generator could augment the solar cells and give it longer flight time. However, there is the problem of potty breaks. This is not a very practical craft, but rather a extremely interesting experiment.
Bruce H. Anderson
In the design stages these Green transportation gadgets have wondrous capabilities but then reality sets in and real world abilities are greatly diminished. I did not see any horsepower rating of the motor and one wonders is this is more a powered glider and lacks the horse power for emergencies. I also wonder what effect the cold at altitude has on the batterys. There is also the worry of fire with these battery packs. As a guy with 7000 years of Scottish tradition the idea of free energy from the sun is most appealing, trouble is that it is not free and is inconsistent.
A video of their take-off and flight would have been really interesting to watch...
...look at those clouds...in those thermal conditions you could probably stay up for hours in a 70 year old piper cub with the engine shut down:-)
There is a video of this craft flying but not this particular one with two people in it http://www.gizmag.com/sunseeker-duo-takes-flight/31751/
The toys rich people get to play with...
Electric power is the only way the average guy or gal will ever be able to take to the skies.
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