Piloted solar flight has been a reality for some time, with even international flights now possible. Up to this point, such voyages have been a strictly solo affair, however the team originally responsible for the Sunseeker II intends to change this by manufacturing what’s billed as the world’s first two-seater solar aircraft – a motor glider named the Sunseeker Duo.
The design of the Sunseeker Duo is based upon the Stemme S-10, a glider which has been in production since the 1980’s and features a folding propellor which is contained within the aircraft’s nose cone when not in use. The Sunseeker Duo maintains this design, though does so while aiming to reduce the weight of the Stemme S-10 from its standard empty weight of 645 kg (1,422 pounds), to 270 kg (595 pounds).
The Sunseeker Duo sports a wingspan of 23 meters (75 feet) and the propeller will be driven by a 20 kW direct drive motor, with power provided by 72 lithium-polymer batteries, wired in series. Those batteries are said to store enough power to allow 20 minutes of full-power climbing, and following this, the pilot may glide while they charge. When above the clouds, the Sunseeker Duo will have the capacity to cruise on direct solar power for hours.
At present, the Sunseeker Duo is still a work-in-progress, and in order to help bring the project to completion, the Sunseeker team has turned to Kickstarter to raise funds. If all goes to plan, project leader Eric Raymond aims to make a series of flights worldwide, beginning with a circumnavigation of the Americas, with the goal of highlighting the benefits of solar technology.
In addition, a documentary film crew will follow the progress of Raymond, and a book is also planned to document the adventure.