- Solar Impulse concept plane.

Opinion: The Future Of Air Crafts Is Through Solar Panels, Not Batteries.

Here I explain my arguments for solar panels to be integrated into airplanes to provide renewable sources of power.

6w ago

I recently saw an article by Robert Percy on the future of air travel and how concept electric planes are being tested currently, and it got me thinking that there are better alternatives. I must admit, I usually tend to steer clear of electric vehicle-related articles because, quite frankly, they irritate me with their dull styles and silent, unamusing presence.

Now, with talk of airplanes being electrified, I figured there must be a better alternative to cleaner energy sources in aircraft. The amount of thrust required to get an airplane off the ground is 1/18th of its weight. A Boeing 747 weighs 404,548 lbs. So that means, you need 22,474 lbs of thrust to get the plane up and moving. That's a lot, and in reality with the mileage range on an EV, the batteries are likely to drain a lot quicker. This is not to say that they will not add lots of batteries, but even that causes more problems. More weight requires a larger 1/18 ratio to the plane's weight to get it off the ground. Requiring more power and creating more battery drainage. How far do you expect to get in this scenario?

Although, I should point out that there is the fact that these concepts are designed to provide short flights between cities and not long journies. Which is fine, but what is the definition of a short flight? Is it one hour, two, maybe five? What if an airport is backed up and airplanes have to circle the runway a few times to be able to land safely? These are real-world scenarios that work in theory but never in practice.

Further said, I came up with an idea that could work brilliantly and is already been thought of by a company called Solar Impulse in Switzerland.

Solar-powered plane concept.

Solar-powered plane concept.

The concept in itself is rather simple. By integrating solar panels into the wings or the body of the plane, you are then able to have unlimited renewable energy to take you on long journies without having to stop to fuel up. Solar Impulse has been testing a similar concept and it seems to be working on a small personal aircraft. While solar panels weigh a considerable amount, batteries are no lighter. You also have to stop and recharge the batteries. With solar panels, all you need is the sun. Some will argue that the weight of the solar panels will make it impossible to get the plane off the ground. However, if you use the 1/18 ratio to the plane's weight and figure out how much thurst is needed, from there you can figure out how much power is needed and supply the exact amount of panels.

In summary, the future of aircraft needs to come from sources of renewable power that do not require high maintenance and are efficient. Rechargeable battery technology is not sufficient at this point to prove effective. However, solar panel integration may just be what the aviation industry needs to provide as a fuel alternative. Only time will tell, I suppose.

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Comments (3)

  • Knowing the FAA, and the airlines, I say its neither.

      1 month ago
  • Pretty sure engineering explained went over this as to why it wont work. Was an interesting video and it was to do with solar panels being inadequate and generating enough power, tho that was specifically for a car.

      1 month ago
  • It’s still a ways away but I definitely agree with you solar is a much higher likelihood than batteries

      1 month ago