Solar Plane Glides Skyward on Test Run July 7, 2010
What could be the next step in airplane evolution is now in the air.
Solar Impulse, a plane whose makers hope will one day be able to fly for up to a day using only the Sun's energy, took off from Switzerland on a 24-hour test flight.
The plane, which has 12,000 solar cells, is designed to receive and store solar energy in its batteries. Andrea Borschberg is the sole pilot, and the co-leader of the project is Bertrand Piccard, who gave the world the first nonstop circumnavigation of the earth by balloon, in 1999.
Borschberg will be flying the plane at an altitude of 27,900 feet until midnight, when he will lower the plane to 4,920 feet and see how far the plane can go on the power stored in the batteries.
That the plane got off the ground at all was proof of the ground crew's dedication. Delays having to do equipment had stymied progress in recent days and weeks.
Organizers say the ultimate goal is for the plane to some day fly around the world using only solar power.
Click here to read more about the company and the machine.