By Glenn Pew, Contributing Editor, Video Editor
Solar flight pioneer Eric Raymond is working to complete his first two-seat design, Sunseeker Duo, which he expects will be "the highest performing solar airplane ever built and the first to carry passengers," and he's seeking grassroots support. Raymond has previously worked on the Solar Impulse project, which aims to fly around the world on solar power, alone, and in the 1990s he flew his own solar-powered design across the country in 21 legs. Raymond's Sunseeker Duo project has won support from Stemme, Allstar Gliders of Poland, University of Stuttgart, and SunPower, which produced the solar cells, but requires additional funding to reach completion. He is actively seeking public support, and is offering perks for donors, including rides in the Duo after it has been completed and tested.
The project is based on the Stemme S-10 motorglider, but Raymond's version aims to weigh roughly half of the original -- including solar cells, batteries and instruments. The design incorporates all-carbon-fiber components and lithium-battery packs and is currently under construction in Slovenia. Raymond plans to bring the aircraft to the U.S. for flight testing when completed. The fuselage was molded at Stemme and wing molds were provided by the University of Stuttgart, according to Raymond. SunPower's solar cells coat the wing's upper surface and offer 22.8 percent efficiency. The design includes folding wings and conventional gear for practical operation and storage at most airports. Find project updates here.