Solar-Powered Airplane on the Horizon
For the last two years, a company has been developing what is likely to become the world’s first solar-powered airplane. Based in Switzerland, SolarImpulse has a team of 25 experts including pilots, electrical engineers, aeronautical engineers, and meteorologists. Their goal is to enable the airplane to fly even in darkness using solar power collected in daylight and stored in wing-mounted solar cells. Their idea is that the plane will fly solely on solar power and be emissions-free. It will also be able to fly continuously for days at a time. The company believes that once the necessary technology is developed, the plane can circumnavigate the planet in one flight. The SolarImpulse aircraft will be constructed using composite materials and have room for just the pilot. It will cruise at almost 40,000′. SolarImpulse expects the plane to be ready for its first test flight sometime after 2008.