Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Solar Impulse, New hopes for solar powered flights

Photo: AFP
Bertrand Piccard, you might have heard his name before. He is the first person to have done a non-stop world tour in a hot air balloon in 19 days and 22 hours in 1999. 11 years later, he is back in the news for another of his project. He is the creator of the Solar Impulse.

So what is the Solar Impulse? As you can see on the picture, it is a plane using nothing but solar power as a source of energy. The electricity produced is used to power four propeller engines of 10 horsepower each. It measures 61 meters in width, nearly as much as an Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger plane! It can also fly at an altitude of 13,000 meters using nothing but the power of its 12,000 photovoltaic cells covering the wings.

On Wednesday morning (07/04/2010), the Solar Impulse took off successfully for the first time from a runway located in Payerne, Switzerland. The prototype flew for about an hour before safely landing. Spectators were astonished by the silence and smoothness of the aircraft.

The Solar Impulse project was initiated in 2003 and around 70 people have been working on it in the past 7 years. According to its creator, the goal of this project is to "stop being dependent to fossil fuels" and to prove that if he can do it for a plane, then major corporations can do it for cars, electronics and heating. At, we like this philosophy! Looking further into the topic, why not imagining in the future a passenger aircraft based on this concept? Silent, eco-friendly, cheap... It's close to perfection!

In the meantime, the Solar Impulse is already planning to go for an around-the-world flight next year. We wish them luck!

Below is the video of the first flight

More videos and photos on the Solar Impulse site.
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