The Falcon Solar, the brainchild of Lasky Design of Budapest, is still only a concept, but there is still a lot of interest in it. According to 2018 data, aviation contributes around one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year, which is around 2-2.5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. A number of ideas have been put forward to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint: some are looking to transfer the battery-powered propulsion system already proven in electric cars to aircraft, while others (such as Airbus) see hydrogen fuel cells as the future. László Németh and Lasky Design from Budapest, however, have taken a completely different approach, as their aircraft, modelled on birds, would be powered entirely by solar panels.
As the Robb Report reminds us, Lasky Design is not the first to come up with this idea, as solar-powered aircraft have been designed since 1975, although they have never been widely used. The technology’s biggest success was clearly the Solar Impulse 2 that flew around the world in 2015-2016, an achievement that not only showed that it is possible to fly on solar panels alone, but also how far the technology is from the capabilities of conventional kerosene-powered aircraft: even at its best, the single-seat plane was travelling at less than 100 km/h and took 558 hours to fly around the world.
The Némeths do not have to find a solution to such problems for the time being, as the Falcon Solar is just a design concept, with no engines or flaps, among other things. The streamlined shape of the plane – as its name, the falcon, suggests – is inspired by birds of prey, which by its very design would generate significant lift, making the plane more efficient. Thanks to this solution, the Falcon Solar could also be flown at night, since if it were to fly high enough, it would be able to sail for quite some time at night. There is also a practical reason for the distinctive design, as the plane would need to accommodate a significant amount of solar panels, which would require as much surface area as possible. The spectacular concept has captured the imagination of many, with the Hungarian-designed aircraft being featured in Auto Evolution, Designboom, Interesting Engineering and Yanko Design, among others, alongside the Robb Report.
The Robb Report also reached the designer of the plane, who told the paper that they deliberately didn’t show everything on the current plans, but they are already working on a smaller prototype with a five-metre wingspan that can be controlled remotely. Németh also said that he believes the technology has now reached a stage where a solar-powered plane is feasible and, as he put it, “could become a reality before self-driving cars”.
Only time will tell if he is right, but it is clear that solar panels are becoming an integral part of transport.