Fresno solar-powered flight makes aviation history

Local News

FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE)- Fresno pilot Joseph Oldham set a new world record, flying more than 200 miles in an electric airplane on batteries charged with 100% solar power.

Oldham says the technology is still quite new.

“Well, we really didn’t have to reach any goal. Because nobody has ever done this. We set the record. We set a mark that somebody else is going to have to overcome,” says Oldham.

Although new, there are already records for distances in electric aircraft.  Oldham set to be the first to pair the technology with a 100% emission-free source of energy — solar.

Cheers from a small crowd drowned out the sound of the aircraft as it landed at 4:45 PM Friday at Fresno’s Chandler Airport. The plane quietly rolled to a solar charging station set up on the tarmac with no more noise of a large fan.

California-Based “Beam” is the partner on the ground. Though a natural match, the airplane and solar charging station were not designed together.

Beam Global CEO Desmond Wheatley says, “We deploy infrastructure everywhere the plane went. Just a couple of hours earlier there was no infrastructure. The plane arrives at the airport. He’s able to fill up with solar-power electricity. Flying on sunshine we like to call it. And then he’s on his way to the next airport and we’ve deployed infrastructure there.”

The stations are the size of a parking space and may be mobile or permanent, deploying off a truck in a matter of minutes.

“It does fold down upon itself. Like this. It is going to collapse in upon itself. It can fit in a 20 foot shipping container. When it gets where it is going it is going to fold back out like a satellite.”

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