May 2014 saw improved solar powered aviation and Europe-USA leadership in electric aircraft with Sunseeker Duo - the first solar powered airplane that can carry two people. Irena and Eric Raymond, the husband and wife team responsible for the new airplane, took off together from the Solar Flight test facility near Milan, Italy. The company run by Americans and Europeans has many companies supporting its technologies.
"Flying the Duo, skimming white fluffy clouds from above and playing on the sky, I feel like a bird. No limitations, a pure freedom." Said Irena from Slovenia, adding, "It's so quiet! Compared to a normal airplane, it's like night and day. You need very good headset in other powered airplanes, but in the Duo you can speak normally even when the motor is running full power, no headset needed. It is unbelievable."
The Sunseeker Duo is claimed to be the most advanced solar powered airplane in the world and the first that is suitable for production. It has a wingspan of 22 meters, an empty weight of 280 kg, and 1510 solar cells with 23% efficiency. The motor has a maximum output of 25kW. The airplane takes off like a normal airplane using energy, harvested from the solar cells which line its wings and tail surfaces, stored in a battery pack in the fuselage. It is then able to cruise directly on solar power. With two people on board, the Duo is capable of flights in excess of 12 hours.
The world leader in pure electric motorised sailplanes is Pipistrel in Slovenia. It is developing an Extremely Short Takeoff and Landing (ESTOL) pure electric aircraft.
As the IDTechEx report, "Electric Aircraft 2014-2024: Trends, Projects, Forecasts" www.idtechex.com/manned explains, manned electric aircraft serve the need for reduced noise, air and ground pollution and reduced global warming. They will employ new electrical components and systems - printed electronics, smart skin, fuel cells, micro turbine and rotary combustion range extenders. Structural supercapacitors may replace or partly replace batteries, there are new power components and electric motors and multiple energy harvesting - all explained in this unique report.