A glider can travel higher than the upper stratosphere, into the ozone hole 90,000 feet above the surface of the Earth where no aircraft can travel – that’s what the minds behind the Perlan Project are counting on.
Perlan II is the glider that will take them there – a sleek carbon-fiber sailplane with a wingspan of 84 feet and a total weight of just 1,700 pounds. Perlan II is unlike any engineless aircraft that has ever been conceived. It’s closest relative is it’s predecessor, Perlan I, which holds the current altitude record for a glider. In 2006, Perlan I flew to 50,726 feet. Perlan II is expected to nearly double that height.
Perlan II’s wingspan is wider than Perlan I by 12 feet, and the new plane is 100 pounds lighter. Engineers think these upgrades will help Perlan II ride the winds over the Andes and into the polar vortex, where air currents will push the plane and its two pilots to heights no glider has reached before.
The project is still a work in progress, with less than two years before Perlan II is scheduled to be towed into the sky by a single-engine plane in Argentina. Organizers must still raise $4 million to get the plane off the ground, and Perlan II is still being built.
For more on Perlan II, check out the Perlan Project’s official site.