Gallery: Solar Impulse Airplane to Launch First Sun-Powered Flight Acro...

Solar Impulse pilot and co-founder André Borschberg.

The Solar Impulse is the world’s first airplane to fly both day and night without fuel. There’s a lot of engineering behind this incredible feat – the plane’s wingspan is the size of an Airbus A340 (208 feet), yet it weighs less than a small car (3,527 pounds). Pilot André Borschberg said that the ratio of weight to wingspan is about equivalent to that of a hang glider.

The plane’s ultralight carbon fiber skeleton is held aloft by two wings clad with 12,000 solar panels strung into groups of 300 cells. These photovoltaics capture the sun’s energy throughout the day and use it to drive the plane’s four 10-horsepower engines. Excess energy is stored in 4 lithium polymer batteries that provide backup power for night flights. The plane’s average speed clocks in at 43 miles per hour, and it runs on about as much power as a tiny motor scooter.

Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat


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  1. Pharther Phurther March 31, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    My mistake. He did mke it;

    During August of 1990, The Sunseeker crossed the country in 21 flights, with 121 hours in the air.

    First this century, perhaps.

  2. Pharther Phurther March 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Not the first. The first attempt was Greg Raymond in 1992. Lack of funding made the journey inoperable, not unlike many of these innovative ideas in the 90′s. Greg easily flew the SunSeeker up and down CA. It had space-grade cells and state of the art nickel cadmium batteries. Pic:

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