China leads the world into a future of solar flight

 
 

One of the key challenges facing designers of solar planes is how to manage flight in cloudy or inclement weather. Photo credit - Pixabay

 

Chinese solar aviation technology is now understood to be a global leader, with innovations that can surpass even Switzerland's Solar Impulse.

 

It's been a turbulent week of environmental news. When President Trump announced his plans to withdraw the USA from the Paris Climate Agreement, most of the rest of the World, including China and Russia, vowed to keep to their pledges nevertheless.

Even so, the decision is a blow to those who seek to combat climate change and global warming.

So here's some news that might cheer-up even the most depressed of environmentalists - solar flight is rapidly not only becoming a realistic possibility, it's looking increasingly like the future of aviation.

In 2015, the Swiss aircraft Solar Impulse 2 became the first solar powered aircraft to successfully circumnavigate the globe. It was a huge achievement, although to get a full sense of the scale of the achievement it's worth noting that the journey took a whopping 16 months to complete.

Solar Impulse 2 has good endurance, and can fly nearly as high as modern commercial aircraft, but it is painfully slow - with a cruise speed of some 70 kilometres per hour.

Just two years later, developments made by Chinese solar aircraft researchers are understood to have lead to technology which will one day be able to enable wide-scale commercial solar aviation.

Understandably, the exact nature of the technology is a closely guarded secret. But solar aviation is coming, and we reckon it'll be here sooner than you'd think.





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