A group of students from technical high schools and engineering schools in France have built a solar blimp that will cross the English Channel by the end of the summer. The students made the craft through Project Sol’R, an initiative by engineers from INSA Lyon and ESSEC Business School.
The 72-foot helium blimp is made of nylon and polyethylene fabric stretched around an aluminum frame. The top of the blimp is covered in flexbile solar cells capable of generating 2.4 kW. The cells will fully power the blimp’s small motor and allow it to reach a speed of 25 mph.
The blimp was on display at the Paris Air Show at the end of June and should be making its inaugural flight within the coming weeks.
A solar-powered blimp seems mainly like a novelty project, but a successful flight could give us some information on integrating solar power into commercial air travel, so it may not be so silly after all.
Author: M. Treacey