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Solar-powered aircraft makes inaugural flight (VIDEO)

Published time: June 02, 2014 13:54
German test pilot Markus Scherdel steers the solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft for its maiden flight at its base in Payerne on June 2, 2014 (AFP Photo / Denis Balibouse)

German test pilot Markus Scherdel steers the solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft for its maiden flight at its base in Payerne on June 2, 2014 (AFP Photo / Denis Balibouse)

Ahead of its anticipated round-the-world trip scheduled for 2015, a solar-powered plane took its maiden voyage after an historic two-hour flight - yet more headway in developing aircraft that don’t need fossil fuel.

The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft, with German test pilot Markus Scherdel inside the cockpit, took off from an airfield in Payerne, Switzerland at 03:35 GMT (04:35 BST; 05:35 CEST), climbing to just over 6,000ft (1,800m).

The carbon-fiber aircraft, which was first displayed to the public on April 9, has a wingspan of 72 meters (236 ft) - wider than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet – and weighs just 2.4 tons. It contains more than 17,000 solar cells inserted on top of the wings, which allow the vehicle to achieve a maximum speed of 140km/h (90mph).

Scherdel reported some early vibrations inside the aircraft, but overall the inaugural test flight was considered a success, with the plane performing a number of maneuvers to prove aircraft handling.

German test pilot Markus Scherdel steers the solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft for its maiden flight at its base in Payerne on June 2, 2014 (AFP Photo / Denis Balibouse)

The Solar Impulse 2 is a larger, improved version of the aircraft that flew across the United States last year with pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg at the controls.

"It's a great day for all the team of Solar Impulse," Piccard told BBC News.

"An airplane like this is absolutely unique. And for the first time in history, we have an airplane that is flying with no fuel day and night, showing the incredible potential of the clean technologies - all these technologies that the world can also use in order to reduce the dependency to fossil fuel and to be cleaner and solve a lot of problems of pollution,” Piccard added.

During the day, the solar cells will recharge lithium batteries, which can then be used to keep the plane’s propellers turning through the night.

The original Solar Impulse set several world records, including the longest manned solar-powered flight at 26 hours, as well as the greatest distance covered on a piloted solar-powered flight (Pilot-less solar-powered vehicles can stay in the air for weeks at a time).

Although the team of Solar Impulse 2 is celebrating its maiden voyage, next year’s planned flight around the world – which will require several weeks’ to accomplish – will present a far greater challenge.

Solar Impulse co-founder Bertrand Piccard (L) congratulates German test pilot Markus Scherdel after its maiden flight with the solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft at its base in Payerne on June 2, 2014 (AFP Photo / Denis Balibouse)

Comments (5)

 

Mark Bradley 03.06.2014 00:09

What ever is the point of this thing ? Lighter than air ships can lift 10,000 times the payloads and they can be powered with bio diesel engines or even solar electric heated steam boiler engines, and fly several times faster.

 

Mark Bradley 03.06.2014 00:06

Take a look at that thing and rejoice that in just a few more decades globalism will be a memory....no, fossil fuels cannot be replaced or substituted - thank God

 

SourceKnown! 02.06.2014 17:42

Is it a tu rd?is it a plane?NO!
it's the flying tu rd plane!

So much for copying birds or insects when you want to take to the air!

I'm not sure that humanity has quite come to recognize, appreciate or let alone understand flying.

Con sidering how backwards the so called state of the art technology is.

I'm not surprised to see that thing! Or someone willing to fly it! much better idea than rockets blasting some of our smartest and bravest people into space!

Good luck to those who are going /taking part, I may not like the design. However, without our spirit of adventure, we would not have left the trees or caves!

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