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Solar powered plane makes first flight ahead of round the world trip



The solar powered plane Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) is a step closer to its round the world trip after successfully completing its first flight from Payerne airfield in Switzerland.

The plane, which is the second more energy efficient model, is set to circumnavigate the globe in 2015 using the 17,000 solar cells on its wings that charge lithium batteries to allow to be flown throughout the night.

Test pilot Markus Scherdel was in the cockpit for the first flight and said the mission outcome appeared very positive.

The original Solar Impulse flew from San Francisco to Phoenix in May 2013 in its first journey without fuel. The plane set a number of world records, including the first intercontinental flight in a solar powered plane.

André Borschberg, Solar Impulse co-founder and pilot, said about the new model, “Si2 incorporates a vast amount of new technology to render it more efficient, reliable and in particular better adapted to long haul flights. It is the first aircraft which will have almost unlimited endurance.”

The team is now gearing up for the global trip in March 2015, with several other flights scheduled for the coming months as preparation. The journey will take up to five days and five nights and the next challenge will be the human element, as only one pilot can fit in the cockpit.

“We have an airplane which is really sustainable in terms of energy but we now have to make the pilot sustainable as well”, Borschberg explained.

It will be worth the work, though, as these journeys hope to create a lot more interest in green technologies and change the way people think about clean technology.

Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard, chairman of the project, said, “Our airplane is not designed to carry passengers, but to carry a message.”

Photo: Melissa_bel via Flickr

Further reading:

US solar powered plane completes first leg of coast to coast trip

Solar powered plan plans around the world flight 

A journey to the future five transport inventions that could change the world

Is it contradictory to fly somewhere for a ‘sustainable’ holiday?

The Guide to Sustainable Transport 2014