After about seven years of development, the engineers of “Solar Impulse” can heave a collective sigh of relief as the solar-powered aircraft completed its maiden voyage on April 8th, 2010 successfully.
During the first launch, Solar Impulse departed from Switzerland and reached 5,500 feet in altitude, performing various test maneuvers. Actual in-flight maneuvers went as seamlessly as the flight simulations had predicted, leaving the team pleased. Takeoff and landing for the unique solar-powered plane also went off without a hitch. The aircraft flew for approximately 87 minutes.
This is a massive aircraft, with a prototype wingspan of around 197 feet. According to Andre Borschberg, co-pilot, CEO and co-founder of the project,
“Never has an airplane as large and light flown before!”
The wingspan is close in size to a Boeing 747, yet the aircraft weighs about as much as a compact car. Outstanding! Technology is truly heading in a more sustainable direction, it would certainly seem.
The crew is gearing up for their planned flight around the world in 2012, during which they will attempt to fly the solar-powered plane both during the day and at night without fuel. Before this attempt, they will test the Solar Impulse with a 36-hour night-flight. Wise idea, team.
Some specs for this solar-powered flying wonder include:
• Crew of 1
• Lithium batteries
• Cruising speed of around 44 miles per hour
• Altitude of 39,000 feet
• 11,628 photovoltaic cells on wing area
• Powerplant: 4 electric motors, 10 hp each
• 71.7 feet long
• 21 feet tall
We are anxious to see how further development and testing turns out for this extraordinary and green aircraft.
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