The possibility of flying power plants that can export energy to the earth is intriguing.

Solar powered aircraft is old news. From Solar Impulse supporting one person day and night with nothing but photovoltaics on the wings to the high altitude unmanned aircraft being developed by Boeing to stay aloft in the upper atmosphere for five years on nothing but sunshine, it is all very exciting. However, if we benchmark what is happening with other electric vehicles such as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), then multiple energy harvesting should be the order of the day, even with aircraft. Indeed, some Electroflyer electric aircraft already work the motor backwards in thermals to charge the battery. This idea should be developed further and combined with the familiar solar power to improve the continuity of energy supply and the amount, even exporting energy to earth. After all, humble electric buses are about to add regenerative shock absorbers to the regenerative braking and the occasional solar panel in their energy harvesting toolkit.

By Dr Peter Harrop, IDTechEx

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