BERN, Switzerland, July 8 (UPI) — A solar-powered plane completed its test flight, staying aloft for 26 hours and 9 minutes before landing near in Bern, Switzerland, its pilot said Thursday.
The record-setting feat caps seven years of planning, bringing the Swiss-led project a step closer to its goal of circling the globe using only solar energy, The Daily Mail of London reported.
“We achieved more than we wanted. Everybody is extremely happy,” pilot Andre Borschberg said after landing the Solar Impulse at the airfield where he departed the day before. “The night is quite long, so to see the first rays of dawn and the sun returning in the morning — that was a gift.”
The single-seat plane is covered with panels containing 12,000 solar cells designed to collect energy from the sun’s rays and power four electric motors driving wing-mounted propellers, the British publication said. During the night, the plane was powered by batteries charged during the day.
Borschberg said he and his team hope to circle the globe non-stop in 2012 in a plane with a wingspan of 262 1/2 feet compared with the 207-foot wingspan of the Solar Impulse.
While the goal is to demonstrate that emission-free air travel is possible, the team said it doesn’t foresee solar technology replacing conventional jet propulsion any time soon. Rather, they said, the project can help test and promote new energy-efficient technologies.
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