At Nextivity, we love hearing stories about initiatives that push the boundaries of innovation, and the Perlan Project is a sterling example of innovation at its finest. While it doesn’t look like much, this engineless glider plane can soar three times higher than any commercial aircraft simply by “catching” airwaves around mountains without any propulsion system to help it along. But here’s the most interesting part of it all: it can fly to the edge of space without an engine. And that’s definitely a feat for the history books.
Right now this unassuming looking plane has hit 5,000 feet in testing, but next year it will be shooting for 90,000 feet in Argentina by catching stratospheric mountain waves.
This article explains how it works, comparing the process to how hawks or seagulls surf air currents. It turns out however, that’s an oversimplified analogy for a very complicated process that the Perlan Project founder (and expert on stratospheric mountain waves) Einar Enevoldson and his team are learning to master.
His team does offer some insight on how winds create waves as they cross mountain ranges, generating atmospheric disturbances as they move to the back side of mountains, then rebounding further downwind. Given the right “surfing” conditions, updrafts can reach into the upper atmosphere.
The glider may not be fast or seem overly sophisticated, but it’s an important enough project that in 2014 Airbus joined as a partner and title sponsor for the next mission – which is set to take place over the coming winter.
I can’t wait to see the results. Can you?
Do you think the science behind the Perlan Project will take it to 90,000 feet?
By Werner Sievers, CEO