Klaus Ohlmann Sets New Solar Records

Klaus Ohlmann, 59-year-old soaring record holder, has set two new records in September, 2011, aboard Icare 2, Stuttgart University’s solar-powered sailplane.

The 25 meter (82 foot) span aircraft weighs a mere 457.7 pounds empty, batteries, motor, propeller and solar cells adding another 152 pounds.  At 805 pounds with pilot, its 25 square meters (269.1 square feet) of wing area make it a “floater” in soaring terms, and probably not the “penetrator” that a good cross-country machine needs to be.

Klaus Ohlmann's view on one of the record flights

This makes Ohlmann’s two records, the latest of 38 total, all the more remarkable.  Declaring his waypoints before each flight, he flew an out-and return flight of 384.4 (238.3 miles) kilometers on August 17, then topped that with a distance flight to three waypoints of 439.3 kilometers (272.4 miles) on September 10, both flights in the Haute Alps of southern France.

Its designers acknowledge the limitations of Icare2’s performance.  “She’s hardly the fastest bird in the skies, but its 25m wingspan and elegant lines make it an impressive sight. Once airborne, level flight is possible without needing to drain the batteries, and even climb is achievable if sufficient lift can be found.

Klaus Ohlmann with Icare 2. Note solar cell array on wings and indication of Seiko sponsorship

“Icaré 2 can get airborne at around 55mph from an asphalt runway, climbing at around 2m/sec under power. The electric motor is deceptively silent on the outside, its vibrations thrumming through the carbon fibre hull and into the cockpit.”

Klaus Ohlmann cruising the Haute Alps

Maximum power yields a 71.6 mile per hour top speed, perilously close to Icare 2’s Vne of 73.8 mph.   With or without power, it is a solar-powered airplane, cruising on its cells or finding lift in thermal energy generated by the sun.  Klaus Ohlmann is a master at exploiting either regime of flight.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • NATE MCLAUGHLIN 09/16/2011, 7:45 am

    SENSATIONAL! WOW!

  • Richard Alfred 09/20/2011, 7:25 pm

    A solar sail plane could be used to take images to transmit by satellite to interested customers at equal or better than spy satellite resolution by being closer to the ground. On the ground electric transportation could benefit from removable battery pallets, to allow a fully recharged battery pallet spare to be ready to use as soon as needed. A smaller than man sized solar powered plane made to run all night on recharged by solar battery power, and would be the best cell phone tower that money can buy.

    (Editor’s Note: A gentleman in Israel has a one-minute battery pack swap for electric cars his company would lease. The Proteus by Burt Rutan was envisioned as a flying cell phone tower or TV station – just bigger than you suggest. QinetiQ demonstrated a solar-powered sensor platform that stayed up for over two weeks last year, and in a size range closer to your idea.)

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