Whether they've been crossing the English Channel, traversing the Alps, or attempting to fly around the world, solar-powered planes have been in the news a lot this year. While the aircraft are certainly fascinating and inspiring, there's no way that most of would ever be able to afford one … or is there? If a new Kickstarter campaign is successful, you'll be able to get a Volta Flyer solar airplane for just US$40. The only thing is, it'll be a little on the small side.
The 16.5-inch (419-mm)-wingspan Volta Flyer was designed by the team at ToyLabs, who also brought us the Volta Racer. The latter is a foam-bodied motorized toy car that children (or not-so-children) put together themselves, and which is powered by an onboard flexible solar panel. As long as the sun keeps shining on that panel and no obstacles get in its path, the car keeps going.
By contrast, the Volta Flyer uses its thin-film solar panel to charge two built-in capacitors – a full charge takes about 90 seconds, in direct sunlight. Users then just power up its motor and hand-launch the plane into the air. Its whizzing rear-mounted propeller should keep it flying for about 30 seconds, with its flight trajectory determined by how its stabilizers have been set … sorry, but it's not remotely-controlled.
"I like to think about it as a modern day balsa flyer, like the ones you built and hand-launched as a kid – but a much more technically advanced version," ToyLabs founder Tim Curley tells us.
As with the Volta Racer, the Flyer's 3.9-gram body is put together by the user without the need for any tools. It's made from a combination of Depron foam and balsa wood, with the wings held on by polystyrene joiners – in the event of a crash, those joiners allow the wings to come off instead of breaking.
If you're interested in getting one of the li'l airplanes, a pledge of $40 is required. Shipping is planned for next March, if all goes according to plans.