Around the world on solar power

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The Swiss team behind balloonist Bertrand Piccard’s plan to fly around the world in a solar-powered aircraft hopes the €40 million ($50 million) project will help to promote renewable technologies.

Engineers at the Ecole Polytech-nique Federale de Lausanne hope the Solar Impulse aircraft (Flight International, 14-20 June) will circumnavigate the globe in 2010, with several stopovers. Its first flight is scheduled for 2007/8.

The Solar Impulse, with a wingspan of 80m (260ft), wing area of 220m2 (2,370ft2), and weight of 2,060kg (4,500lb), is still in the design phase, says head of marketing and communication Luiggino Torrigiani. “We’re not yet sure of the practical applications [in aerospace],” he says, adding that the solar cells that power the aircraft could be used in satellites.

The Solar Impulse will glide at night using energy stored during the day. The pilot will wear a symbiotic garment, which allows him to sleep but wakes him up to make any necessary flight adjustments.

HELEN MASSY-BERESFORD/LAUSANNE