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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Solar Powered Bubble Plane is Awesome

A design for an ultra-environmental aricraft just won the top prize at the prestigious Lucky Strike Junior Designer Award. Roland Cernat, who just graduated from the University of Applied Sciences Schwäbisch Gmünd / Germany created the airplane with the environment in mind.

First, once in the air, it can travel entirely fuelessly, much like other ultra-light gliders. It can tuck away it's tiny propellers for 100% aerodynamic flight. But when it needs an extra boost, generally for take-off, the glider's propellers unfurl, driven by a small electric motor that is powered either by an on-board generator or by thin film solar panels on the planes wings and tail.

We've seen other ultra-lights that get good gas mileage, but every component of this plane was constructed for minimal environmental impact.

The cockpit is constructed entirely from a new kind of plastic that can be melted and re-molded infinitely for cradle to cradle use. It also allows the entire body of the airplane to be clear. And though some (including myself) might this find extremely disconcerting, others would love the experience.

I talked briefly with Roland about the design, and wondered what kind of fuel efficiency one could expect. He said, flying at night and with the worst winds possible, a flight would be about 30 miles per gallon. But with the trickle charge of the solar panels, plus an option to charge from the grid, it's possible that the plane would use absolutely no energy over the course of a flight.

Now that's an airplane I can get excited about!

Check out more images of the glider below.

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