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June 25, 2009

Around the World... in a Solar Plane

Solar technology has boomed recently. We have solar concept cars, buildings running on only solar power, and now... a solar powered airplane!

Adventurer Bertrand Picard made history in 1999 by flying around the world, non-stop, in a hot-air balloon. Now, to raise awareness about alternative, renewable energies, he and his Solar Impulse team have created an initial version of a solar airplane, HB-SIA. It has a similar build to a glider, has the same wingspan of an airliner, and weighs very little. This first version will be tested to see how well it handles night flying. The super efficient solar cells, batteries, propellers, and motors should allow it to function at night. If successful, the team will work on the next version, HB-SIB, which will be larger and more sophisticated, with a pressurized cabin and better avionics.

Picard hopes to cross the Atlantic in this solar plane by 2012, and eventually to circle the world once again, this time in a plane powered entirely by the sun.

Credit: BBC