Solar Powered Plane Prototype Unveiled

Switzerland bids to be the first to produce a solar powered airplane that can travel around the world. Solar Impulse unveiled the prototype in an airbase hangar near Zurich.dwp solar impulse 070709

With a wingspan equal to an Airbus A380, the ultralight high-tech single seater plane will make its maiden voyage over the coming few weeks when the weather conditions allow. The slender craft, which weighs 1600 kilograms (equal to a medium-sized car and lighter than the best performing gliders), will need clear conditions and light breeze of three knots to be able to fly.

The prototype, however, is smaller than the actual plane that is expected to fly around the world. The prototype is being used to test the cutting technology that built the plane, the controls of the plane and its ability to fly though the night.

Runway tests are due on December 20 at the Dubendorf airbase.

The first 36-hour non-stop flight is scheduled to fly out from Switzerland in spring 2010 while a five-stage flight plan is scheduled in 2012.