Solar plane makes maiden international flight

The Solar Impulse prototype plane has embarked on its first international flight, demonstrating the true potential for pollution free air travel.

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA single seater airplane took off from Payerne airfield in Switzerland at 8:40am this morning after a three hour delay due to strong winds. It is expected to reach Brussels this evening before nightfall.

Designed by Bertrand Piccard and his team, the solar plane has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 and is powered by some 12,000 solar cells mounted on its wings. The Solar Impulse project began in 2003 with a 10year budget of €90million. After completeing its maiden flight last April, the plane made aviation history last July by flying through the night on solar power alone.

The Swiss team said it plans to fly an improved version of the plane around the world by 2012. The flight can be followed on the team's website, where visitors can track the plane's progress live and see key parameters such as altitude, ground speed, battery levels and how much energy its solar cells are generating.

Read an exclusive New Electronics article on the project here.

Laura Hopperton

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