Swiss Plane Completes First Solar-Powered Overnight Flight
The Solar Impulse HB-SIA, a Swiss solar-powered plane, completed the first non-stop night flight on solar energy after flying 26 hours and 9 minutes. It was the longest solar flight at the highest altitude in aviation history, Solar Impulse announced on Thursday.
The Solar Impulse HB-SIA has a huge wingspan, equal to the Airbus A340′s 63.4 meters. It includes approximately 12,000 photovoltaic cells, most of them on the wing and around 880 on the horizontal stabilizer.
The plane took off on Wednesday morning from the Payerne airbase with André Borscherg, CEO and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project, at the controls. The HB-SIA flew at an altitude of 8,500 meters until 11:00 p.m., when the sun rays stop being enough to supply the solar cells.
During the night, the airplane continued flying using the energy stored in the solar cells. It landed back at Payerne at 7:00 a.m. Thursday. At its highest, the Solar Impulse surpassed the 8,500 meters intended and reached 8,700 meters of altitude.
“This is a highly symbolic moment: flying by night using solely solar power is a stunning manifestation of the potential that clean technologies offer today to reduce the dependency of our society on fossil fuels!,” Bertrand Piccard, initiator and President of Solar Impulse.
The project was financed by Solvay S.A., Omega and Deutsche Bank. It cost 100 million Swiss francs.