Solar Impulse, the first ever solar-powered aircraft, took off on 3rd of May at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California.
The plane took off at 6am in the morning and is set to be on a tour across the U. S. till it gets to the New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport – its final destination – in July.
Some of the airports it is expected to visit include Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Lambert St. Louis International Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport.
Each flight leg is expected to take about 19 to 25 hours, with 10-days stop in each city.
Its first flight is to Phoenix, Arizona where it is scheduled to land at around 1am today, May 4.
“In terms of today’s flight, it’s a very big contrast,” pilot of the Solar Impulse, Bertrand Piccard, told reporters an hour before takeoff.
“On one side, we have to be very precise, it’s an aeronautical first. We have to coordinate with the FAA, with air-traffic control, so there is a hard workload for the pilot. On the other side, it’s complete freedom because we have no fuel on board. It’s completely solar powered so theoretically the plane can fly forever. We don’t need to refuel.”
“We’re the first airplane to be able to fly day and night on solar power, so it’s a fabulous way to promote clean technology, to show what our world could do if we were really applying these technologies everywhere,” he continued.
“We have to understand, the technologies we have on board, if they were used everywhere including on the ground, they could help our world divide by two energy consumption.”
Piccard has previously completed an around-the –world flight in a hot air balloon.
Another model of the solar airplane is being made and is expected to make a flight across the world. This is expected to occur in the year 2015.
His co-pilot is Andre Borschberg , a former Swiss Air Force pilot and graduate of MIT.
The Solar Impulse is a very light air plane. Despite its 63 metres wingspan, 22 metres length, and 6 metres height, it weighs just 1,600 kilograms (1.6 tons). That is approximately the weight of a small car.
This is due to a fuselage made from carbon fibre sheets three times lighter than paper. Its four engines are powered by batteries that are charged by 11,628 solar cells. Losses in the plane’s motors is roughly 6% while losses in conventional motors is about 70%.
Its takeoff speed is 44km/hr and its cruising altitude is 8,500 metres. The top speed of the Solar Impulse is about 70km/hr and I think that is where its biggest challenge lies.
Solar Impulse already has the aviation record of the longest duration of flight at 26 hours, 10 minutes and 19 seconds.
Project Solar Impulse started in 2003 at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland, and had its first flight in 2009
We would love to know your thoughts on this post. Drop your comments