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It has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 but weighs less than a small car – and could be the first plane to fly around the world powered entirely by the sun.
This is the Solar Impulse, unveiled in Switzerland, which its inventor hopes will revolutionise air travel and reduce its impact on the environment…
They are planning to prove the airplane’s viability with a round-the-world trip, although the scheduled take-off date, 2012, suggests they are in for a few more turbulent test flights.
He said: ‘Yesterday it was a dream, today it is an airplane, tomorrow it will be an ambassador of renewable energies…’
The plane, part of a £70million project, will fly day and night using almost 12,000 solar cells, rechargeable lithium batteries and four electric motors.
Unlike the first nonstop round-the-globe balloon trip which Mr Piccard co-piloted in 1999, the solar flight will have to make stops to allow for pilots to switch over and stretch after long periods in the cramped cockpit…
Mr Piccard says the plane should also serve as an inspiration for inventors and manufacturers of everyday machines and appliances.
Sounds inspiring to me all right. And an interesting looking craft to boot.
My worries come from working with a few aeronautics engineers. They get stuck in to the conflict between strength and weight – down to some scary small margins for error AFAIC.