Klaus Ohlmann Sets New Solar Records
Klaus Ohlmann, a 59-year-old soaring record holder, set new records in September 2011 with a solar-powered sailplane, the icaré 2. The aircraft can charge its batteries on the ground with solar energy and then take off and climb about 400 fpm. Level flight is possible without needing to drain the batteries by using the wing-mounted solar panels. The motor, batteries, and solar cells weigh the same as a Rotax 503 with 10 gallons of fuel.
The 82-foot-span aircraft weighs 457.7 pounds empty, with the batteries, motor, propeller, and solar cells adding another 152 pounds. Takeoff weight is 805 pounds with the pilot, and the wing area is 269.1 square feet. The icaré 2 can get airborne at around 55 mph from an asphalt runway. Maximum power yields a top speed of 71.6 mph. With or without the electric motor running, it’s a solar-powered airplane, cruising on its cells or finding lift in thermal energy generated by the sun. If the pilot finds himself without enough lift to continue in unpowered flight, the engine can be turned on, with the stored solar energy in the lithium-polymer batteries used to search for the next area of lift.
In 1996 the icaré 2 won the Berblinger Prize by becoming the first aircraft to take off and stay aloft using only its solar panels for power, without the need for a boost from its batteries. And in 2003 it flew uninterrupted for 350 kilometers (217.5 miles). The two new records are for an out-and-return flight of 384.4 kilometers (238.9 miles) on August 17 and for a distance flight to three declared waypoints of 439.3 kilometers (273 miles) on September 10.
Read the story about the icaré 2 solar plane in the CAFE Foundation Blog. The CAFE Foundation is a nonprofit organization that developed award-winning flight test equipment and software which records extremely accurate speeds, temperatures, weights, pressures, frequencies, and sound levels. CAFE is an acronym for “Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency.” The CAFE Foundation along with NASA and Google sponsored the Green Flight Challenge. More pictures and details about the icaré 2 can be found at http://icare2records.com.