An experimental aircraft using 12,000 solar panels and 210 foot wings flew for 26 hours under its own power. The single seat plane averaged 26 miles per hour. When sunlight is available, the many solar panels produce electricity, which is stored in lithium batteries. The batteries power the plane at night so it can fly continuously for long periods. Ultimately, the goal is to fly nonstop around the world using only solar power.
Solar Impulse is the organization behind the plane’s design and operation. Co-founder of Solar Impulse André Borschberg flew the plane. He said, “During the whole of the flight, I just sat there and watched the battery charge level rise and rise! Sitting in a plane producing more energy than it consumes is a fantastic feeling.”
Video of a Solar Impulse Takeoff
During its successful flight, the plane ascended to about 9,000 meters. The top speed was 75 mph. Flying the plane across the Atlantic Ocean will be the next challenge. If that goes well, a trip around the world will begin in about 2013. That trip will be conducted in a second plane that is currently under construction.
Charles Lindbergh achieved the first nonstop, fixed-wing, solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927. He covered a distance of over 3,000 miles in about 33 hours.
In 1910 an American journalist tried to cross the Atlantic in a dirigible. He only went about 1,000 miles, due to a storm.
Image Credit: Solar Impulse