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The First Green Airplane Unveiled to the World: Solar Impulse

image_8-defihome_normalSolar Impulse, the innovative Swiss aerospace company officially unveiled their prototype solar airplane. The Solar Impulse HB-SLA is completely powered by wing mounted PV solar panels which explains the huge area of the wingspan design matching that of a Boeing 747-400. Over 12,000 solar cells cover the outer surface of the wing providing DC electricity to 4 electric motors each capable of producing  10 hp. An important aspect of any plane design is off course the weight of the entire unit including electronics, engine, passenger and cargo. The 70 person team of engineers and designers at Solar Impulse have managed to keep this weight at (1600 kg) or the equivalent of an average family car.

According to the company the lithium batteries on the Impulse which , alone weigh in at 400 kg will be capable of reaching  sufficient charge to allow the brave pilot to fly the prototype in the dead of night. ( not something I would want to be the first to try). Since this is an all electric plane do we give it the acronym EP?

In response to demands from many enthusiasts, Solar Impulse announced today a program specially reserved for people wanting to participate in the adventure and to express their support of the project’s philosophy. Supporters can enroll on to receive news in real time, to adopt a solar cell on the wing, reserve a VIP visit at the Solar Impulse base, or place their names on the aircraft’s fuselage.

Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse

The presentation of the prototype took place in front of more than 800 persons, including 200 representatives of the international media, and many high-ranking guests among them H.S.H. Albert II of Monaco, the Swiss Minister of Energy and Environment, the CEOs of Solvay, Omega and Deutsche Bank and the CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The press conference was also relayed live on Internet and was followed by journalists all around the world. 60 media representatives gathered in Beijing and followed the conference in front of giant screen, in simultaneous translation for the occasion.

The HB-SIA is the first prototype of the Solar Impulse project. Its mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of a complete day-night-day cycle propelled solely by solar energy. After fine-tuning on the ground, the aircraft should make its first test flights between now and the end of 2009, first of all at Dübendorf airport (canton of Zurich) and then from Payerne air base (canton of Vaud). A first complete night flight is programmed for 2010 and will take place over Switzerland.

Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse

The results from the HB-SIA and their analysis will serve to develop and build a second aircraft, the HB-SIB for circumnavigating the word in five stages, each lasting several days, in 2012.





Here is the latest video on the wing design of the Solar Implulse.


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