Picture Source: NASA
In 1988, more than a quarter of a century ago, a team of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( MIT ) successfully achieved to let fly a Human Powered Aircraft from the island of Crete to the island of Santorini on a distance of 115 km. It was the MIT Daedalus project.
A prodigious result of the project was the low weight of the aircraft: 32 kg for a wingspan of 30 meters.
I propose today to take advantage of the breakthroughs of Solar Impulse in the field of inhabited solar flight to build a Solar and Human Powered Aircraft. The human pilot power will be electrically assisted by the photovoltaic energy in the day phase.
In good sunshine conditions, the pilot will be able to rest. In other conditions and at night he will have to pedal to keep the aircraft in the air.
A high level athlete with good stamina should be able to travel long distances such that a Round-The-World-Tour could be taken into consideration.
The aircraft should have an equivalent weight to the one of Daedalus but it will have to be more robust, more manoeuvrable and more performant.
Air Bike and Pilot Sustainability
It would be great to fly around the world with the airbike but will plane and pilot be able to sustain multi-day flights over oceans ?
In good weather conditions, the airplane should be able to climb up to 10’000 feet with the help of solar energy, thus storing energy as potential altitude energy.
To allow the pilot to sleep, the airplane will be able to fly in “drone mode”. In this mode, Artificial Intelligence will control the aircraft.
Over night the pilot will have to pedal to maintain its aircraft in the air. Remaining in the air over night will be one of the numerous challenges of the pilot.
Another challenge for him will be to develop the ability to sleep in its flying tiny home.
What about food and beverage input and output for the pilot ?
May be the main question, indeed !
As this airplane will not be able to embark a large payload, food and beverages will have to be supplied in flight with drones, let’s say at the end of each night when the aircraft has lost altitude and is close to the ground.
Input and output will occur through a hatch under the seat of the pilot.
Multi-day flights should be possible on this way.