Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Charles Kirkland specializes in solar energy applications. Charles Kirkland has an abiding interest in new sun-powered projects, including the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft.
The plane, powered by solar cells, set off on a round-the-world journey in March 2015. After flight testing in 2014, Solar Impulse 2 was shipped to Abu Dhabi, the takeoff point for the flight. The journey was planned to cover some 22,000 miles and was expected to last about 500 hours.
Providing power to the aircraft are solar cells that line the top of the wing, the fuselage, and the tailplane. The cells connect to lithium batteries that store electrical power for flying at night.
The craft is constructed of lightweight materials such as carbon fibers, which provide flexible strength. One hundred and forty ribs lend rigidity to the wings.
The aircraft cruises at 28,000 feet during the day and descends to 5,000 feet at night in order to conserve energy. Its average speed is around 48 miles per hour. Solar Impulse 2 recently completed a nearly five-day nonstop trip across the Pacific, the longest journey by a solo flight.
Unfortunately the aircraft was grounded in Hawaii because of overheated batteries that could not be repaired. Event organizers hope to resume the journey in 2016.