- Solar Plane Achieves 1st Night Flight
PAYERNE, Switzerland, July 8, 2010 — The Solar Impulse HB-SIA, the first aircraft designed to fly day and night without fuel or pollution, has completed the first night flight ever by a solar-powered plane.
Taking off yesterday morning from Payerne Airbase with André Borschberg, CEO and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project, at the controls, the plane flew more than 26 hours both day and night, setting a world record in solar aviation.
More than 12,000 solar panels are built into its wing, supplying renewable energy during the day to the electric engines (each with a maximum of 10 hp), while at the same time charging the lithium-polymer batteries used for flying at night.
"I've been a pilot for 40 years now, but this flight has been the most incredible one of my flying career. I just sat there and watched the battery charge level rise and rise thanks to the sun. The suspense of not knowing whether we were going to manage to stay up in the air the whole night and finally [experiencing] the joy of seeing the sun rise and feeling the energy beginning to circulate in the solar panels again,” said Borschberg upon leaving the cockpit. “I have just flown more than 26 hours without using a drop of fuel and without causing any pollution.”
“Bravo André,” said Bertrand Piccard, initiator and president of the project, the moment the Solar Impulse touched down. “You have just proved that what I have been dreaming about for the last 11 years is possible. This is a crucial step forward, and it gives full credibility to the years of speeches about renewable energies and clean technologies and allows us now to get closer to the perpetual flight without using a drop of fuel.”
Artistic rendering of the Solar Impulse. Credit: Oxyde.de-Sapristi / EPFL – Solar Impulse.
“Such success would not have been possible without all the hard work put in by an exceptional team," said Claude Nicollier, head of the Solar Impulse test flight program.
The team credited their success to Solvay, Omega, the Deutsche Bank and all our partners with whom they worked. A 70-member team along with 80 partners took seven years of hard work, calculations, simulations and tests to build the carbon fiber plane that has a wingspan equivalent to that of an Airbus A340 (63.4 m/208 ft) and weighs about the same as a mid-size car (1600 kg/3500 lb). No aircraft so large and yet so light has ever been built before.
The success of this first night flight by a solar-powered plane is crucial for the further course of the Solar Impulse project. The next important milestones for Solar Impulse will be the crossing the Atlantic and the around-the-world flight using the second prototype, which goes into construction this summer.
For more information, visit: www.solarimpulse.com
MORE FROM PHOTONICS MEDIA