Solar Impulse Completes First Flight

The Solar Impulse Foundation, cofounded by Piccard, has some loft goals about promoting research and innovative exploitations of renewable energy use in the aeronautics industry, getting the information and news about inventions out to the public, and promoting sustainable development. One route to doing this is to tackle the tricky challenge of flying around the world in a solar-powered aircraft, and that’s exactly what the SIF set out to do in 2003–with building starting in 2007.

Several weeks ago the impressive-looking vehicle, dotted with 12,000 individual photovoltaic solar cells underwent some initial engine power tests, and last week it rolled down the runway in Switzerland under its own power in some low- and high-speed taxi tests to test out controls, handling, and the delicate undercarriage. Under a test-pilots command, ground speed reached 10 miles an hour, and conditions were almost right for a first flight. Instead the team played it safe, and that flight should happen some time this week, if all goes well. Playing it safe sounds particularly sensible when you learn that the Solar Impulse is the size of an Airbus, but weighs about as much as a mid-sized car.


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