Solar Plane to Fly Round the World

TWO inventors hope their brand new solar plane will be the first to circumnavigate the globe.

Adventurer Bertrand Piccard and former fighter pilot André Borschberg devised project Solar Impulse in the hope of creating a sustainable mode of flight, powered only by the sun.

A prototype of this dream machine is currently in Silicon Valley and test flights will begin in March ready for its virgin voyage across America, landing in New York.

While the concept of solar powered flight isn’t new (one of the earliest solar powered planes crossed the English Chanel in 1981) this project is far more ambitious.

The 1981 model had a 14.3-metre wingspan covered in solar photovoltaic which powered two electric motors, which in turn drove a single propeller.

This new prototype plane will have a wingspan of 63.4 metres (as big as a jumbo jet’s) and will be covered with 12,000 PV cells which will power the batteries the plane needs to fly through the night ( when there is no sun) as well as four propellers.

However, it’s not been smooth running. There have been notable problems and in previous testings part of the aeroplane broke, so the test flights America will be crucial in developing new technology.

The nature of the solar plane means it can’t bear too much weight, so only one person can be on board.

But it isn’t just crew that is too heavy, the plane can’t carry a full autopilot system meaning the pilot must be fully aware at all times.

A spokesperson from said: “This is an incredible development which just shows how exciting solar energy is and can be. We obviously wish the project well and can’t wait to see how it pans out. It’s incredible the things that can be achieved by harnessing the sun’s energy.”

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