vehicles, let alone airplanes. Nevertheless, the first solar-powered plane trip around the world is now one step closer to reality. A 1500 kilogram solar plane dubbed “Solar Impulse” will complete its first test flight next April. The plane, which has a 61 meter wingspan, will attempt to travel around the world in May 2011. It will go into commercial production the same year.
Solar Impulse’s solar cells are placed on the upper surface of its wings, while the underside is wrapped in film.
The plane’s solar system works by using 12,000 photovoltaic cells, each containing 130 micron monocrystalline silicon. Solar Impulse can fly in the dark by using a 400 kilogram deep cycle battery bank.
It will be interesting to see how the plane’s around-the-world attempt fares, but solar power will probably be relegated to small planes no matter what the outcome.