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Solar-Powered Plane Flies Even at Night

Years of hard work and testing have finally paid off. The Solar Impulse, a plane powered solely by solar energy cells, successfully flew through day and night. It spent the early morning of July 7 slowly climbing to an altitude of 8,700 meters to charge its batteries. 4:40pm saw the Solar Impulse take a long controlled dive to 1.5km, then continued flying at through the night without depleting its power reserve.

The Solar Impulse weighs as much as a car (1,600 kg), yet has a wingspan of 208 ft. For comparison the wingspan of the Airbus A380—the largest passenger airliner in the world is 238.6 ft. Its array of 11,628 solar cells generated power for 400kg worth of batteries, which run 4-HP electric engines.

The team behind the solar-powered flyer are now working on another plane, designed to go around the world non-stop. Team estimates place the future flight within the 2012-2013 range. We're definitely a long way from solar-powered airliners, but it's clear that some headway is being made.

Solar powered plane flies through the night

  • chickenhoagie
    looks like a recon-plane.

    boy, just imagine a huge airliner using only solar-power. that would be very impressive. but seeing how they're so much closer to space and the sun, I don't see it being too difficult in the future
  • ubernoobie
    congrats, does it carry people or what does it do?
  • maestintaolius
    ubernoobiecongrats, does it carry people or what does it do?Concept aircraft is what it does, much like concept cars, so nothing practical at the moment.
  • drwho1
    ubernoobiecongrats, does it carry people or what does it do?People? no way the Pilot and Co-Pilot were monkeys didn't you know?
  • matt87_50
    so can it fly indefinitely or not?
  • joytech22
    matt87_50so can it fly indefinitely or not?
    It "Can" but the creators probably landed it so they could.. you know.. make it better?
  • techguy378
    Considering there are new solar panels that used sphere shaped solar cells that can use reflected and direct light stunts like this aren't too surprising. If Toyota's Prius embedded these newer solar cells into the moonroof then maybe the air conditioning could be solar powered. The current Prius is a disappointment. It turns out the solar panels only power the fans that blow air through the vents, not the AC like Toyota originally said.
  • ksampanna
    Concept usually means "atleast another five years to get to the public, that is, if we are lucky."
    Cool though.
  • I guess it's in a computer website, because it is equipped with the latest Atom Z processor as dahsboard-touchscreen-LCD boardcomputer (or something).
  • fancarolina
    They missed it when naming it Solar Impulse, nope it should be the Soulplane.