Acting on impulse: adventures in solar power

It has the wingspan of an Airbus A340, the wing load of paragliders and delta aircraft and, in relation to its size, is around eight times lighter than some of the best gliders around.


And you’ll be able to check it out for yourself next month on June 26 when the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, which aims to be the first solar aircraft to fly night and day without fuel, is finally unveiled at Dubendorf airport in Switzerland.

The Swiss team behind balloonist Bertrand Piccard’s plan to fly around the world hopes the €70 million solar-powered aircraft will ultimately circumnavigate the globe in 2012, with five stopovers en route.

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA, the first prototype of a Solar aircraft has a wingspan of 12m, wing area of 200m2, and weighs 1500kg. It will fly during the day propelled only by solar energy and will glide at night using energy stored during the day. The pilot will also wear a symbiotic garment, which allows him to sleep but wakes him up to make any necessary flight adjustments.

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