Solar Impulse Makes International Flight
Even though the future for solar powered aircraft is a little uncertain, the fact that the Solar Impulse was able to complete an international flight is a feat of engineering and of spectacular success for the Swiss. Switzerland has most certainly created an aircraft that they can be proud of. As with any maiden voyage there were a few teething problems, but nothing so serious that it would jeopardize the flight and its victory.
The Solar Impulse weighs a mere one thousand six hundred kilograms and has a wingspan of sixty-one meters. This already is a wonderful engineering accomplishment. The wings carry twelve thousand solar cells that provide energy for the aircraft to be able to fly. This lightweight aircraft left Payerne and made the twelve hour and fifty-nine minute flight to Brussels without any complications. The aircraft was tested at various heights such as six thousand feet and was able to navigate a very busy airspace. It can only reach speeds of twenty-five knots, but is able to avoid radar detection due to its light weight and because it does not move at high speeds. Even though the Solar Impulse would not be able to be used for military purposes due to it not being easily maneuverable or being able to reach fast speeds, it remains a remarkable achievement for the aviation industry.
The Solar Impulse project was founded by Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, who commented that the project was not directed towards commercial production, but rather to bring awareness to the aviation industry and to highlight the benefits of renewable power. And with its maiden flight being such a success, they plan to take the Solar Impulse on a world trip in 2013. When the same flight is compared to a Boeing 747, the flight would have needed approximately two thousand gallons of fuel. It cannot be truly compared, as a Boeing would be carrying passengers and cargo, but it is a rough estimate to compare the environmental affectability of the Solar Impulse. The Solar Impulse will remain in Brussels up until the 29th of May 2011, from where it will fly to the Paris Air Show in July.