Transport Theory

Solar-powered aircraft to provide disaster relief to remote areas

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A Toronto-based company says it has designed a airplane-airship hybrid that will be able to deliver large loads to remote locations, while leaving a minimal carbon footprint.

Planning on moving large loads to remote locations?

Toronto-based Solar Ship may have the solution. The company has designed a solar-powered aircraft that will be able to travel 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles) while carrying 1,000 kilograms (about 2,200 lbs.) of cargo. All of this without the use of fuel.

Also unnecessary will be costly infrastructure such as airports and runways. These 'solar ships' - which are a cross between airplanes and airships - can take off and land on an area the size of a soccer field.

The solar ship will be inflated by helium, will use solar panels attached to the top of the ship's body, and will likely employ a lithium-ion battery. The electricity generated will propel it into the air, achieving a mix between static and aerodynamic lift -- the difference, say, between a blimp and a plane.

The company sees the Solar Ship as a viable way to transport materials to remote locations or areas where infrastructure has been destroyed -- such as areas of Haiti that became inaccessible after the 2010 earthquake destroyed roads and airports.

While Solar Ship said it has developed and tested its first prototype, it does not intend to hold any public demonstrations until mid-2013. Solar Ship's website says it plans to develop three models of varying size, in both solar-powered and hybrid varieties, equipped to haul between 150 kg (330 lbs.) and 12 metric tons (26,460 lbs.) of cargo.

See the Solar Ship in action:

Photo: Solar Ship

via [AutoblogGreen, Toronto Star]

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Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure