Solar Impulse is making huge news in its lofty goal of crossing the world completely powered by solar. If completed, the flight will be the first to have circumnavigated the globe without any conventional fuel. But another solar-powered vehicle is looking to make its own mark in history: a fully solar journey across the Atlantic.
The Solar Voyager, a completely autonomous vehicle, is the brainchild of Isaac Penny and Christopher Sam Soon. It has been in the making for four years now, and was just launched on June 1. It started from Boston and, if all goes well, will arrive in Lisbon, Portugal sometime this Fall.
But unlike Solar Impulse, the Voyager is not the baby of a team of pilots and engineers. Its inventors built it from scratch, with only the solar panels and some standard motor parts taken off the shelf.
From a jury-rigged plastic kayak, the boat evolved to have a full-on custom aluminum hull with home-made, home-tested propulsion and electronics. It has a 280-watt solar array, a specially made fouling-resistant propeller, and a barnacle-resistant coating.
The two hope to see Voyager in Portugal by October, and have set up a website that tracks its location every 15 minutes.