Flying has always been a human dream. Whether it be the Wright brothers in the past or the low-cost airlines in the present, all have worked towards making this dream come true. Luxuries of modern day flights are an added reason to take the aerial route to your destination. However, the rising demand for fuel and shrinking supplies have taken away the ‘low cost’ from airlines. Increasing prices of flying not only affects flight enthusiasts but also affects activities such as large scale farming and emergency services such as air ambulances. Adapting a newer energy source will soon be a necessity in the future, but are we future ready? Well, the Solar ship is.
We often look for ways to make our day-to-day lives more eco-friendly but Canada based Solar Ship has taken ‘going green’ to an all new level. Inspired by the Zeppelin‘s of the late 1800s, Solar Ship is developing aircraft that are powered by sunlight. Yes, sunlight powers the movement of these crafts that can weigh from as little as 150 kg (a small size one) all the way up to 12 tonnes ( a cargo freight carrier). Travelling at humble speeds of 60-100 kilometers an hour, these green-mean flying machines are kept buoyant by helium. The solar panels placed on the top of the aircraft convert solar energy into electrical energy, which is used to maneuver the aircraft during flight and power its landing and take-off. Better understanding of aerodynamics and development of light weight batteries and efficient photovoltaics have made flying possible with minimal environmental impact. Impressed? The best part is yet to come.
These helium-filled blimp like aircraft need as little as 200m of flat surface to land or take-off. So, in addition of being capable to fly over long ranges without the need to stop/ refuel, these solar-powered marvels can actually land in small open spaces without any sophisticated equipment. The company has three prototypes built and tested in sizes, small, medium and large, each offering a unique advantage over the other in terms of functionality. Here is a video where one is these crafts were being tested for flight.
In the near future, Solar Ships are aimed to have a social function than a commercial one. The company aims to use them as devices to deliver medicines and other necessities in remote areas of Africa. You can know more and contribute to the cause by visiting their fund raising site. Later, the company aims to use them across various fields such as disaster relief, delivery of medical cargo, movement of commercial goods, field research, providing communication services in remote areas, military applications etc. The cost of a Solar Ship is expected to be around $1 million but being solar powered, will also guarantee freedom from fuel bills. There is one hurdle though!
Helium is also a depleting resource and prices of this inert gas have risen continuously in the last few years and for long term viability of these ships and alternate means of flying, an alternate needs to be found.