Eco-friendly awesomeness took to the skies today as the solar powered plane, Solar Impulse, made its maiden voyage today in Switzerland.
While the flight only lasted 87 minutes, Solar Impulse was designed to be able to fly around the world without stopping and simply relying on solar power. With its array of 12,000 solar panel cells it took the skies and hit an altitude of 4,000 feet.
The founder of Solar Impulse, Bertrand Picard, felt the solar plane test to be a crucial step in his goals of circumnavigating by air on solar power.
“This first mission was the most risky phase of the entire project,” Piccard said. “Eighty-seven minutes of intense emotion after seven years of research, testing and perseverance. Never has an airplane as large and light ever flown before!”
Not exactly a sound barrier breaking airplane, the Solar Impulse runs on four 10-hp electric motors and has a cruise speed of about 40 to 50 miles per hour.
Next up for the Solar Impulse team is night flight testing later this year where they will try and fly longer by trading altitude for airspeed boosted by battery power. The circumvavigation flight is planned for sometime in 2012.