Solar Impulse soars to success on maiden flight

Solar Impulse 2 successfully completed its inaugural flight on Monday. This milestone is the first step towards the first round-the-world solar flight.

The solar-powered aircraft took off from Payerne airfield in Switzerland on Monday at 03:35 GMT and returned just over two hours later, reports the BBC. Test pilot Markus Scherdel was at the controls in the cockpit of the single-seater aircraft.

While he reported some initial vibrations, the test flight was considered an overall success. “The initial results are in line with calculations and simulations,” read a later statement from the team. This was the first of several test flights that the team will undertake over the coming months in order to earn certification for the aircraft.

Fitted with over 17,000 solar cells, Solar Impulse 2 has a wingspan of 72 metres, a full 8 metres wider than its record-breaking predecessor. And while it is wider than even a Boeing 747 jet, it weighs only 2.3 tonnes, explains BBC. The solar cells recharge lithium batteries by day, which can then be used to power the plane’s propellers at night.

Adventurers Betrand Piccard and André Borschberg – who were at the controls of the aircraft during the epic TransAmerica journey in mid-2013 – are upping the ante with Solar Impulse 2, and have announced their plans to undertake a round-the-world journey in 2015. The global flight will only take five days and nights to complete, but it will have to be completed in short stretches because only one pilot can fit in the cockpit, according to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.


Photo credit: Solar Impulse

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