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    1. Project Sunrise

    2. Los Angeles California 1974

    3. Flight of the Worlds First Solar Powered Aircraft

    4. by

    5. Roland Boucher

In November 1970 I began to investigate the possibility of flying a radio controlled model aircraft on electric power.  The basic equations of flight revealed that “off the shelf” nickel cadmium batteries had more than enough energy density to fly a practical RC model plane and they could be recharged in 15 minutes. In April 1971 I demonstrated my first electric model plane at a trade show in Anaheim,California.

Later in the year I contacted the Eagle-Pitcher Corp. asking them to donate one of their high energy silver zinc batteries for an experiment to replace the VW engine in a Fournier  RF4 powered sailplane with an electric motor and batteries. They declined but promised to give me a smaller non rechargeable version of the battery for experimentation.


I built a six foot span semi-scale model of an RF4 using this battery. The model flew on Feb 4, 1972  demonstrating that an electric powered plane could fly for one hour at an average speed of 50 mph.


This flight led to a proposal to build an 8 foot span, 25 pound battlefield drone which would fly for one hour on silver zinc rechargeable batteries and carry a five pound payload.


In early 1973  I conceived of a high altitude unmanned aircraft with unlimited duration which would be powered by the sun.

The author holding a plaque depicting the patent   

he was awarded in 1976 for the invention of a

radio controlled electric airplane

PP 1

First Solar Powered Aircraft