A solar plane that was unveiled in Switzerland in June recently made its first test outside of a hangar. The plane is called the Solar Impulse and was an idea of those responsible for the first balloon ride around the world.
The plane has a 207 foot wingspan, which is comparative to commercial airplanes. The wings hold solar cells, specifically 11,628 solar cells. The plane weighs 3,527 pounds, which is equivalent to a car. The propellers are powered by four 100 kilogram lithium batteries.
The goal of the project is for the plane to reach 28,000 feet in the near future. The ultimate goal will be a continuous 36 hour flight without using external energy. The non-stop flight is expected to occur in 2012, while a shorter flight is expected to be tried in February of 2010 which will last about two hours.
The recent tests on the plane took place on a runway in Switzerland. The plane traveled approximately 1.2 miles on the runway, reaching 5 knots in speed. The hope is to test the plane again in the upcoming days and reach 10 knots.
Those behind the project are testing the computers and engines involved in the plane. These tests are also expected to give pilots an idea of how the aircraft will operate in real situations.
Andre Borschberg, who is the chief executive of the project, alluded to the group taking their time to ensure all is in place. Borschberg stated: “This is truly a new design- an airplane the size of an Airbus and the weight of a mid-sized car- so we’re not taking risks by not understanding something.”