Design Spotlight: Sunrise Thermal Airship

Flight by light

It may look like a mechanical dragonfly but Metin Kaplan’s “Sunrise” is not a Da Vinci helicopter. By harnessing the power of the sun, Kalpan’s project aims to make thermal-powered flight a reality for a wider audience — and if you’re wondering who needs slower, solar-powered aviation just think about its applications in filming, patrolling, expeditions or just plain ol’ recreational use. It’s quiet, requires significantly less ground operations and is completely eco-friendly.

Propulsion comes without the use of costly helium, too. How? Through some rather clever use of old school technology. Similar to a lighthouse, the Sunrise uses a Fresnel lens mounted on a 2-axis tracking system to constantly concentrate sunlight into a focal point within its large insulated balloon. Voila, buoyancy. The balloon also serves as a heat-energy storage source to power a pair of collapsible wing-mounted Stirling engines, which use heat energy for fuel. Any remaining energy created is transformed into motion and stored into an onboard flywheel. The result is a proposed flying machine without complexity or a heavy reliance on non-renwable fuels. Where do we sign up?

More photos and diagrams after the jump.

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