Adventurer Unveils Solar-Powered Plane for Around-the-World Flight
Wired reports that Piccard will soon attempt to fly around the world in a solar-powered aircraft that weighs about as much as a small car and has the wingspan of a Boeing 747. While only a prototype at this point, the HB-SIA Solar Impulse features more than 11,000 energy cells, flies at day or night (but not so well in storms, yet), reaches heights of 27,000 feet, and cruises around 45 mph.
Piccard said test flights with the prototype plane would begin later this year, and in 2010 he will fly it across Switzerland. Then, in 2012, Piccard and another pilot will fly a more advanced version of the prototype around the world. According to Piccard, the trip will take between 20 and 25 days and will occur in five stages. Due to limitations of the human body, Piccard and his co-pilot Andre Borschberg will take turns flying the aircraft.
Keep your eyes to the skies in 2012. We don't expect Boeing will be placing a massive order of Piccard's plane any time soon, but it takes visionaries like Piccard and his team of engineers to push green technology to new heights (pun definitely intended). [From Wired]