Solar Impulse Solar Powered Airplane Completes Record Setting 26-Hour Flight
On Thursday, July 8th, a solar powered airplane flew off of a runway in Payerne, Switzerland and into the record books. The flight, made by a plane called Solar Impulse, set the record not only for the longest amount of time spent in the air by a solar powered airplane, but also for the highest altitude reached, climbing to 8,564 meters above sea level.
Andre Borschberg, the pilot of Solar Impulse, called the flight "the most incredible" of his forty-year career. An unusual craft, the solar powered airplane weighs in at only 3,500 pounds but bears 193 foot-long wings. These wings use solar panels to gather photonic energy, which runs the four motors aboard Solar Impulse. Energy gathered during the day is stored for use at night, and the solar powered airplane actually landed with more charge than it had upon takeoff.
The team behind Solar Impulse plans to push solar powered airplane technology even further by circumnavigating the globe in a similar craft by 2012. Flight time is limited only by the energy density of modern batteries, but with the success of Solar Impulse, its creators are confident that they can continue to push the limits of solar aviation.