Solar-powered airplane makes first international flight
Sunday, May 15, 2011
The solar-powered airplane Switzerland. It was the first international flight by a fully solar-powered aircraft.touched down at the late Friday night, after completing a 13-hour flight from its home base in ,
The experimental aircraft was piloted by, co-founder and chief engineer for the Solar Impulse project, which hopes to circumnavigate the globe using only the sun's energy in 2013. "Our goal is to create a revolution in the minds of people...to promote solar energies -- not necessarily a revolution in aviation," , the group's other co-founder, said in an interview after the flight.
The aircraft collects energy from the sun using 12,000 extremely thin solar cells affixed to the wings and tail section. An on-board battery can store enough electricity to fly all night, allowing the Solar Impulse to stay aloft indefinitely. This allowed the aircraft to maintain a holding pattern over theas other flights landed and conditions were right for the Solar Impulse to land. Because the aircraft weighs only about 3,500 pounds and has a wingspan of 200 feet, it is extremely sensitive to wind and needs calm conditions to land safely.
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