Solar power in the skies seems to be a growing trend. First the Solar Impulse project announced plans to launch a solar-powered manned plane, and now Projet Sol’R has declare that its solar blimp, dubbed Nephelios, is almost ready for takeoff.
Projet Sol’R, spearheaded by INSA Lyon and ESSEC Business School, constructed the 72 foot long helium blimp powered by semi-flexible solar cells that can generate 2.4 kilowatts of power. Nephelios’s solar cells juice up a small motor that powers two big red propellers that push it up to 25 mph. The structure, which is 18 feet in diameter, is completely wrapped in nylon and polyethylene. Lucky Parisians had the chance to check out Nephelios in person last month at the Paris Airshow.
A test flight in the next two weeks will decide whether the solar blimp is ready for a longer journey across the English Channel later this summer. The trip should take under an hour. If the first flight is successful, Nephelios will become the first solar-powered airship to hit the skies.
According to the Projet Sol’R team, Nephelios allows for unlimited flight with zero emissions. And while Lockheed Martin is working on a solar drone blimp for the military, Nephelios is designed purely for civilian use. Guilt-free blimp joyride, anyone?