1. Project Sunrise

    2. Los Angeles California 1974

    3. Flight of the Worlds First Solar Powered Aircraft

    4. by

    5. Roland Boucher

The Concept

The sun irradiates the earth with a tremendous amount of energy each day. This energy, if converted to mechanical power is more than enough to fly a light weight aircraft.

For example, on December 17, 1903 the Wright Brothers flew the worlds first airplane at Kitty Hawk North Carolina using a 12 HP gasoline engine. At noon on December 17th the solar radiation received by the 255 square foot top wing would have been over 12KW (16 HP).

If the Wrights had flown on June 21 the wing would have received 24 KW of solar power.

Solar cell technology in 1973 was capable of achieving efficiency levels of about 17%. Today, in 2009, Efficiencies of nearly 40 percent are possible. Project Sunrise would use garden variety cells with only about 10% efficiency. This  would limit electrical power to about 500 watts.  

The Level of Solar Energy Impinging on a Flat Surface at Sea Level.

from Hughes Aircraft Spacecraft designers handbookP2

P 2