This Aeroplane Fuelled by Sunshine is Like Icarus in Reverse

By Gerald Lynch on at

The Greek myth of Icarus saw the son of a mastercraftsman's hubris get the better of him, his wax wings cutting a high-flying flight short as they melted in the sun's rays. Despite this, the sustainable future of modern flight may take its inspiration from Icarus's doomed journey -- Bye Aerospace's Sun Flyer is powered in part through solar panels found on the plane's wings.

However, its solar-powered flight won't allow for perpetual motion. Even if above cloud cover, the electric Sun Flyer takes a long time to recharge through its solar panels alone.

"Solar panel efficiency of course varies with the time of day, the weather, the time of year, so there’s several factors impacting how much the solar power contribution might be to the plane’s batteries", Bye Aerospace CEO George Bye told PopSci.

"If you’re flying the airplane slowly, the amount of energy required to maintain flight, combined together with the best solar combination of clear, sunny skies and summertime, the solar energy contribution can be fairly significant, up to 20 percent of the energy required for flight, even a little bit more. If it’s cloud and a winter time flight, the solar energy contribution diminishes."

Infrequent fliers in sunny locales could theoretically power the aircraft by the sun alone, provided it's left outside under the full glare of the sun. But the Sun Flyer's green credentials don't stop with its solar power generation. When making its decent, its front propellor acts like a windmill, also helping to recharge the battery. While such a hybrid system is a long way off of being adopted by commercial airliners, solar power may mean that fuel is one less thing that needs buying for high-flying, light-aircraft owning playboys. [PopSci]