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Transportation Science

Solar Plane Completes 24-Hour Flight 88

asukasoryu writes "An experimental solar-powered plane landed safely Thursday after completing its first 24-hour test flight, proving that the aircraft can collect enough energy from the sun during the day to stay aloft all night. The record feat completes seven years of planning and brings the Swiss-led project one step closer to its goal of circling the globe using only energy from the sun. The team will now set its sights on an Atlantic crossing, before attempting a round-the-world flight in 2013." We ran a story about the flight's departure yesterday.
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Solar Plane Completes 24-Hour Flight

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  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @11:27AM (#32840504)
    You're right. The original Wright Flyer barely made it off the ground in optimum conditions, there's no way it would have made it in poor weather, and it certainly wouldn't get me across the country in a reasonable amount of time. Clearly this whole heavier-than-air flight nonsense is wildly impractical and we should stop trying to make it work.

    Solar powered flight is evolving just like any technology, and it's currently in its infancy. It may or may not ever prove to be practical, but abandoning it just because an experimental craft has shortcomings we don't think a fully mature product should have would be silly.
  • by blackfrancis75 ( 911664 ) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @11:58AM (#32840918)

    you're still not talking anything remotely practical for commercial use.

    If such a plane can be made to carry even small amounts of cargo across the earth - slowly, but faster than terrestrial speeds - and it's operating costs are negligible, wouldn't that have a variety of commercial applications?

    An unmanned variant might someday even has some military and civilian uses

    Contradicts first statement.

    it's never going to replace our chemically powered, high speed transportation aircraft.

    Possibly true, but irrelevant.

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @01:11PM (#32842014)
    all I read are the precursors to an affordable, 24/7, domestically deployed Panopticon system. Gotta think of the children, and if you have nothing to hide...
  • by Uniquitous ( 1037394 ) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @01:12PM (#32842034)
    The military spends the money to perfect it, or at least bring it to a generally useful stage. At the point that commercial interests get their hands on it, most of the major bugs in the core functionality have been worked out, allowing the erstwhile vendors to spend their money adding bells & whistles. By the time we consumers get our grubby paws on it, the major pitfalls have been addressed.
  • Re:Probably not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Thursday July 08, 2010 @01:28PM (#32842258) Homepage

    the military doesn't care about the costs of fuel or operation.

    I'm guessing all those times I spent at the end of a fiscal quarter or a fiscal year hoping I had enough budget to buy my spares and consumables were figments of my imagination. The same goes for the gradual accumulation of ships at the piers towards the end of a quarter, after all they didn't have a quarterly fuel budget... (And this was at the height of the Cold War!)
    Or, IOW, bovine exhaust. The military does care about the costs of fuel and operations as they don't have a blank check.

    Land it. Fuel it up. Send it out again

    The military also cares deeply about endurance and cycle time - because the shorter they are, the more units you need to maintain coverage. All else being equal (and taking budget into account) they'll chose the system with maximum endurance and minimum cycle time consistent with minimal life cycle costs.

  • by COMON$ ( 806135 ) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @03:06PM (#32843440) Journal
    looks like someone had mod points and went down the thread marking troll. This is what we refer to as someone abusing their mod points. One of the more blatant ones I have seen.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.