Swiss Team Unveils Solar-Powered Aircraft (June 28, 2009) — Swiss scientist-adventurer, round-the-world balloooning pioneer and pilot Bertrand Piccard unveiled solar-powered aircraft in Switzerland.

swiss-solar-aircraftAfter six years of development, the wasp-shaped prototype of Solar Impulse, with the wingspan of a jumbo jet, was rolled out at an airfield near Zurich.

He said, “If an aircraft is able to fly day and night without fuel, propelled solely by solar energy, let no one come and claim that it is impossible to do the same thing for motor vehicles, heating and air conditioning systems and computers.”

The carbon fibre concentrate of new technology has a 63.4 metre wingspan but weighs little more than a medium sized car.

Some 12,000 solar cells spread over its slender wings are meant to keep it aloft, fuelling four tiny ten horsepower electric motors and 400 kilogrammes of batteries that are, unusually, meant to keep it going overnight.

The prototype HB-SIA will make its maiden test flight by the end of this year. Its mission is to test the feasibility of a complete flight sequence through two days and one night, propelled only by solar energy.

It paves the way for a second aircraft’s bid to fly around the world in five stages in 2012.

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