Solar Plane Takes To Skies For Experimental 24 Hour Flight

Illustration for article titled Solar Plane Takes To Skies For Experimental 24 Hour Flight

The developers behind the Solar Impulse solar-powered plane are trying for a twenty-four hour flight relying on collected energy stored in the batteries to stay aloft at night. With a guy named Piccard heading things, what could go wrong?


Solar Impulse first made waves (or is that particles?) back in December when they tested the flight capabilities of this 262.5-foot wide solar-powered machine. Now after some refinement they've decided to really push the plane and see if their current level of solar sophistication can deliver the goods on sustained flight. Instead of a controlled experiment, they've taken off from Payerne airfield in Switzerland with a plan to soak up the days sun while climbing to a height of 27,887 ft, then relying on battery power to stay aloft and complete a 24 hour flight cycle.

Captain André Borschberg will be at the helm for the test and based on battery levels and energy consumption the team will decide if the attempt makes sense sometime near nightfall. Project backer Bertrand Piccard will be closely monitoring the progress, his family's got a history in setting flight records and he was the first to pilot the Solar Impulse. Currently, Borschberg is flying high above the Alps, riding the thermals and avoiding sheer winds. If the team manages to succeed in this test, they'll push the plane even further with plans for the first 'round the world, non-stop solar-powered flight. (Thanks for the tip Rob)




I hope that he's flying westbound to chase the Sun and get the extra exposure time.

Also, does it use regenerative braking on landing descent like the 737 hybrid? I'm not kidding. The latest 737 uses a ram-air turbine on descent to charge batteries, which it then uses instead of the main engines to taxi. It's actually a pretty big advantage.