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Larry Mauro, designer of the popular UFM Easy Riser, designed and built an entirely solar powered glider. On April 29, 1979 the Solar Riser made the world’s first official flight in a solar powered, fully controlled, man carrying flying machine. The ultralight reached an altitude of approximately 40 feet and flew for about a half a mile before landing gently.

Essentially, Larry took one of his existing glider designs and added a set of landing gear to it. Then Larry installed several panels of photovoltaic cells in the ultralight’s top wing. Photovoltaic cells were capable of converting the sun’s rays directly into electricity. When exposed to sunlight, the cells could feed 350 watts of 30-volt energy into the Hughes 500 helicopter battery Larry installed behind the seat of the glider. The electricity stored in the battery could then be used to power the three horse electric motor mounted on the glider.

The Solar Riser could make a three to five minute flight after the battery had been charged for at least an hour and a half. Though that doesn’t sound like much, it was enough to get the aircraft to a high enough altitude to cut the engine and fly like a glider. The Solar Riser was light enough to be used as a glider almost indefinitely, allowing the solar panels to recharge the battery while in flight. This allowed a pilot to run the engine for a powered take off and landing, with un-powered flight in between.

The original Solar Riser was not using the most efficient solar cells on the market at that time and the upper wing had enough space for twice as many to be installed. Larry had ambitions to improve the Solar Riser so it could sustain powered flight the entire time the ultralight was airborne.

In 1979, Larry Mauro donated the Solar Riser to EAA AirVenture Museum.


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