High hopes for solar craft

The Standard Hong Kong China

High hopes for solar craft

A Swiss adventurer yesterday soared above sun-splashed Spanish valleys toward Morocco on the world’s first intercontinental flight in a solar-powered aircraft.Bertrand Piccard, a 54-year-old psychiatrist and balloonist, took off into the night skies above Madrid in Solar Impulse, a giant plane as big as an Airbus A340 but as light as a family car.

 

After a graceful, nearly silent takeoff, he guided the experimental plane southward from Madrid-Barajas airport and within eight hours was just northeast of Seville. An onboard camera relayed images of the valleys below the aircraft, which has 12,000 solar cells in the wings turning four electrical motors.

“For one hour I had the full moon on my right and I had the sunrise on my left and that was absolutely gorgeous. I had all the colors of the rainbow in the sky and also on the ground,” Piccard said shortly after setting out.”The issue is not to use solar power for normal airplanes.

“The issue is more to demonstrate that we can achieve incredible goals, almost impossible goals, with new technologies, without fuel, just with solar energy, and raise awareness that if we can do it in the air, of course everybody can do it on the ground.”

Piccard gradually piloted the plane to an altitude of about 3,800 meters as he headed toward Spain’s southern coast at some 50 kilometers per hour.

To qualify as an intercontinental flight he has only to cross the Strait of Gibraltar – 14km at its narrowest point – from Europe to Africa.

But the crossing is one of the most challenging points of the trip because Piccard must first climb to 8,500m, where temperatures can dip as low as minus 29 degrees Celsius and he will need an oxygen mask. He aimed to enter Moroccan airspace over Tangiers and land at Rabat- Sale airport this morning (HK time).

All that, without using a drop of fuel.

Each of the motors on the carbon- fiber plane charges 400-kilogram lithium polymer batteries during the day, allowing the aircraft to fly at night.

The 2,500km voyage is also intended as a rehearsal for Solar Impulse’s round- the-world flight planned for 2014.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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Posted on June 6, 2012, in Morocco News, Solar Energy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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