The Solar-Powered Aeroplane That Can Fly Forever Makes Its First Flight

With a wingspan longer than Boeing’s 747 jumbo jet, the Solar Impulse 2 took off from its home base in Switzerland on its maiden flight this week. First unveiled to the public in April, the solar-powered craft is set to attempt an around-the-world flight next year.

The Solar Impulse 2 took 50 engineers, 80 technological partners, and 100 technical advisors 12 years to conceptualize, design, and build. All of their work culminated in this week’s two hour-long test flight.

The Solar Impulse 2 draws power from 17,200 solar cells.

Wing-mounted solar cells power the craft's 4 electric motors.

With drive going through 4 propellers, the craft can reach a top speed of 87 mph.

Though not exactly luxurious, the aircraft will have autopilot, a toilet, business-class seats, and space for pilots to lie down on long trips.

Even though it has the wing span of a jumbo jet, the Solar Impulse 2 weighs no more than an average family car.

The Solar Impulse 2's around-the-world flight next year will be split up into several stages

As long as there is sun, the Solar Impulse 2 can recharge its batteries and stay aloft indefinitely.

In fact, project founders Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg admit that the pilots will be the weakest link on their around the world flight.

The current aircraft is the successor to the Solar Impulse 1, which flew non-stop across America last year in 45 days.

Pilots expect to take 5 days and 5 nights for the plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

They are training for the mission by using flight simulators, yoga and meditation.

The project's backers claim that the plane's energy management technology can help reduce energy consumption by half if put to daily use.

See what else is going on in aviation.

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