The solar powered aircraft Solar Impulse has landed in Le Bourget, France, for the Paris Air Show after flying for 16 hours from Brussels. The innovative aircraft will fly each morning of the air show from June 20, demonstrating the potential for pollution-free air travel.
The aircraft succeeded on its second attempt, taking off from Brussels in the early morning on Tuesday and flying to France at an average speed of 41 km/h, Flight International reports. When it landed it still had 95% battery capacity remaining.
The aircraft was piloted by Andre Borschberg, the project’s co-founder and pilot. “To stay airborne day and night without using any fuel implies making radical energy savings, and this is one way in which aviation can become less of an environmental burden,” he said.
The flight is another milestone in solar powered aviation. On May 13 the Solar Impulse made the world’s first international flight powered by the sun when it flew from Payerne in western Switzerland to Brussels, showing the potential for pollution-free air travel.
“The objective is to demonstrate what we can do with existing technology in terms of renewable energy and energy savings,” Borschberg told Reuters by telephone during historic the flight.
Borschberg believes such solar-harnessing technology can be used to power cars and homes. “It is symbolic to be able to go from one place to another using solar energy,” he said.
The Solar Impulse project began in 2003 with a 10-year budget of 90 million euros (US$128 million) and has involved engineers from Swiss lift maker Schindler and research aid from Belgian chemicals group Solvay.
The plane, which requires 12 000 solar cells, embarked on its first flight in April last year and completed a 26-hour flight, a record flying time for a solar powered aircraft, three months later.
With an average flying speed of 70 km/h (44 mph), Solar Impulse is not an immediate threat to commercial jets, which can easily cruise at more than ten times the speed. A flight from Geneva from Brussels can take little more than an hour.
Project leaders acknowledged it had been a major challenge to fit a slow-flying plane into the commercial air traffic system.
A larger prototype is scheduled to fly around the world in 2013.