Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Radical

Taking solar to the skies with an autonomous aircraft

Mobility & Transport

How could this ultra-lightweight solar-powered aircraft revolutionise real-time monitoring?

Spotted: The aviation industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, but it’s also seeing a surge in innovations looking to make the sector greener. Among these are plans for high-altitude, solar-powered aircraft, developed by US startup Radical.

Because the propellors are powered by solar panels, the ultra-lightweight aircraft can fly autonomously over target areas for months without landing, potentially advancing numerous domains without generating emissions. 

According to Radical, these extended flights could unlock significant opportunities and advancements for both commercial and government applications. These include continuous real-time monitoring of weather systems, wildfires, and illegal fishing, as well as high-resolution imaging, mobile cellular service, and broadband direct-to-device internet access.

Radical recently secured $4.5 million (around €4.2 million) in a series seed round, spearheaded by Scout Ventures and supported by investors such as Inflection and Y Combinator. With this funding, the company aims to perform a test flight of a full-sized aircraft within a year to validate the concept. The startup previously tested a smaller prototype in October 2023.

Springwise has previously spotted other solar-powered aircraft, from an e-plane that could fly in the stratosphere for up to a year to an aeronautical project aiming to achieve the first two-seater commercial solar aircraft.

Written By: Georgia King



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