Posted on behalf of Miriam Frankel.
The solar-powered plane Solar Impulse has completed a 26-hour test flight, showing that the aircraft can absorb enough energy from the Sun during the day to keep it going all night. (BBC news, the LA Times, Telegraph).
The plane reached a height of 8700 metres during the flight, which makes it the highest and longest solar-powered flight ever recorded.
The plane, weighing in at about 1500 kg, is driven by four electric motors and propellers, and has a wingspan similar to that of a large commercial jet. It is equipped with batteries that are charged by 12,000 solar cells.
Pilot Andre Borshberg flew the plane over the Jura Mountains in the Swiss Alps during the test flight. It landed safely in Payerne, Switzerland, at 8 am BST this morning.
Former balloonist and adventurer Bertrand Piccard co-funded the project with Borshberg. Piccard says that the project is the beginning of a new era where people understand that you can do seemingly impossible things with renewable energy.
The team plans to build a better, more advanced version of the plane, hoping for a round-the-world flight in 2013.
“Nothing can prevent us from another day and night, and the myth of perpetual flight,” Piccard told the BBC.
Credit: AP Photo/Keystone/Fabrice Coffrini