Solar Impulse, first completely solar-powered plane, has its first flight
by Mark R
This mechanical phoenix that you see here is the Solar Impulse, and this completely solar-powered plane just completed its first flight this morning.
The flight lasted 87-minutes long, and soared to 5,500 feet. During that time, it only achieved a top speed of 44 miles per hour. According to the pilot, Marcus Scherdel, “the aircraft’s control-ability matches our expectations”.
I don’t want to be the one to split hairs, but this flight, notable as it is, is actually late. Yes, it was originally planned for 2009, and it didn’t make its deadline. However, there is plans that this plane will be on schedule to do an around the world trip in 2012. Assuming the world doesn’t end by then, of course. Anyway, the next step is to make certain that the plane can stay up in the air for 36 hours.
The plane has a 200-foot wingspan, which is equivalent of that of a Boeing 747. Its engine is only 44 horsepower, which doesn’t sound too fast, does it? In fact, how does this thing get in the air with that speed?
This, of course, leads to another question that seems obvious to me. How will it stay up in the air when the sun is not out? It better have some power stored up in some batteries to make that 36-hour flight during the night portion.