57

If no, why not? While I can't say categorically that it's not happened, I'm pretty sure. Solar radiance is approx. 1kW/m^2. A 737 has approximately 100m^2 wing area. Solar cells are approximately 20% effective. If you covered the entire wings in solar panels, that would work out to 20kW of electrical power at best. At night, it would be close to zero ...


46

Short answer: No Long answer: No. Look at the solar impulse project, this is some of the best solar-electric technology that's out there, and it's barely able to carry one person, very very slowly. If you took an airliner, covered it in the best solar cells available and connected it to the best electric engines available it probably wouldn't even be able ...


17

To cover a current-design airliner in solar cells and hook them up to electric engines spinning the fans will not work. Ever. Read @GdD's excellent answer for the reasons. But today's car is also not a horse buggy with a gasoline engine. It has evolved and adapted to the possibilities. The same needs to happen to the airliner. Now let's look at what is ...


11

No, there are several reasons: Fragility v Efficiency v Weight: the most efficient solar panels are rigid and heavy, which is bad for a wing structure. Flexible and light panels do exist, but they are half the efficiency. They also have limitations to how much flexing they really can take, the constant flexing of a wing, vibrations, cycles between hot and ...


8

Yes. Note that your question does not specify how frequently the trips are to be made. Take your Boeing 737, put as many solar cells on it as you can, connect them to a plant that takes H2O and CO2 out of the atmosphere and turns them into something suitable as jet fuel. When the tanks fill up, fly somewhere. From the numbers in GdD's answer the plane ...


7

Almost any situation The only time you wouldn't be able to stay (near) Geostationary would be if the wind velocity is higher than your own maximum powered velocity, at all altitudes you are able to operate. In any other situation, you simply fly in something resembling a circle over the area you with to loiter, or fly directly into the wind (zig-zagging if ...


5

Not a stupid question at all! This was one of the goals that solar impulse I and II set out to show. one thing to keep in mind is that its of course only possible while the sun is shining. It was able to do it but the margin of error was fairly small, During the day, the plane flies only by the energy from the sun. But in the morning and evening, when ...


5

First, because solar panels are pretty mediocre sources of power per area. An industry average found via quick Google search is in the 200 - 300 Watt per square meter range, so let us be very optimistic and take the higher value, $300W/m^2$, for a round of math. If you want the details, solar irradiation on the surface is about $1kW/m^2$ and the best ...


4

Adding chord to an existing wing does the following: It increases wing area S It reduces aspect ratio A It increases weight. These three factors influence each other and should all be considered. Drag D of a sub-sonic fixed wing aeroplane is $$D = C_D \cdot \frac{1}{2} \rho V^2 \cdot S = \left( C_{D0} + \frac{{C_L}^2}{\pi A e }\right)\cdot \frac{1}{2} ...


4

Electric propulsion using ion thrusters is already in use for space applications. Today's ion thrusters deliver very high specific impulse at low power (typically in the order of 10 to 1000 W). Lower or higher outputs are possible and subject of current research and development. Ion thrusters work great in the vacuum/free fall environment where low thrust ...


3

Most of the answers assume the sollar energy must be haverested on the plane itself, but there is not enough area there. But why? It is possible to use a huge ground-based solar battery to decompose water into oxygen and hydrogen. Or just use hydroelectricity - rivers are powered by the Sun. Hydrogen powered airplanes exist. A large commercial hydrogen ...


3

This question doesn't specify whether the solar panels are attached to the plane or not. If the Boeing plane is restricted to it's own surface area, then the above answers are sufficient to explain NO> Otherwise, if the solar panels are not attached to the plane, YES. With laser power. See here > https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/...


3

Let's take the MQ-9 as an example... The MQ-9 is powered by a 900 HP Honeywell TPE331-10GD engine. In order to generate 900 HP, it will take 2100 kVA (assuming 3-phase electric AC motor). 2100 kVA is about 1680 kW. That is 1.68 million watts. Now, the sun delivers (if you could get 100% of the energy sent to Earth) about 4.8kW per square meter (depends on ...


3

It is impossible with today's and tomorrow's technology. Nevertheless, "ever" is a very, very long time. Nobody can answer 'no' to your question with certainty!


2

MIT has produces a small-scale RC plane that's powered by ionic thrusters. These are not the same as ion thrusters in space; instead the ions here are created from the surrounding air. The benefit is that the plane doesn't need to carry its propellant. Since there are no fast-moving mechanical parts, this is very silent. I could even see this being used to ...


2

If we only need a cargo drone, we already have them - a postal pigeon would match all your requirements. Does not require a pilot, but the payload is rather limited. If you need a pilot for your story, no existing bird could carry a typical human. However we can envision this happening, by joining the two extremes: a largest flying dinosaur (weighted about ...


2

The engine/motor/battery/power-supply is not your problem (as Ron mentions in the comments) its generally your propellers that are making all the noise. A well made brush-less DC motor makes nothing more than a quiet whine even at high RPM's. Generally any motor noise you hear in cheap consumer stuff is the result of less precise mass production tolerances ...


2

I once worked for a company that made electronics for commercial aircraft (flight deck printers, Ethernet switches, digital chart recorders). In addition to what others have mentioned on this thread, you also have to account for the fact that if a product is manufactured for aircraft in the US, it must comply AS9100 and FAR, and whatever standard the EU is ...


2

Not purely on topic but there is a solar airplane. Solar supported airliner isn't out of the realm of possibilities, just solar tech isn't there yet. Also it would have to be economically feasible to even be considered. Here's an article from 2016 about a solar airplane that traveled the globe. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/26/solar-...


2

Several designs show that solar powered flight is possible. The actual design pretty much depends on the requirements. Solar Impulse 2 is maybe the most famous aircraft, but possible not ready for everday use. The Solar Impulse design resulted from the goal to fly around the earth and especially to be able to fly through the night, based on batteries that ...


1

You definitely could add chord to the wings, but it is the same question of efficiency. Rarely do you sacrifice aerodynamic efficiency to carry more weight. But in this case the benefits of adding chord to increase surface area have merit, although keeping aspect ratio the same and simply making the whole wing bigger may be a choice as well. And let's not ...


1

One consideration that makes solar aircraft less feasible is that the figure of 1kw/m2 is for sunlight striking the solar panel square on - i.e. perpendicular to the panel. Unless you're flying in the tropics at noon, an aircraft's wings won't meet that. Their insolation (the amount of power from sunlight) drops with the cosine of the angle from vertical ...


1

YES! it could be done. I live 10mi from the first nuclear reactor in the world. It is a staggering thought to remember the United States went from the discovery of radioactivity to the nuclear bomb in just 40 years. What seems impossible today is less than $20 at Wall-Mart in 20 years. I can see where a heavier than air hybrid blimp/flying wing like ...


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