Swiss Company Unveils New Solar-Powered Aircraft

צילום: Solar Impulse

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Switzerland’s Solar Impulse has unveiled the aircraft with which it will attempt a solar-powered round-the-world flight in 2015.

Photo: Solar Impulse
Photo: Solar Impulse

The 236-ft. wingspan Solar Impulse is scheduled to make its first flight in mid-May.

The aircraft, registered HB-SIB, is larger and heavier than the prototype, HB-SIA, with increased wingspan, solar-cell area and battery capacity. Solar Impulse 2 will have increased endurance and speed, giving it a greater ability to manage weather during the round-the-world attempt.

Unveiled at Payerne airport April 9, the aircraft will be rolled out of the hangar early next week to begin ground tests of the solar energy collection and storage system, Solar Impulse says. Flight testing will be conducted from Payerne.

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Where the 1,600-kg (3,530-lb.) gross weight prototype’s longest flight has been more than 26 hr., the 2,300-kg Solar Impulse 2 is designed to fly for four-six days. Changes from HB-SIA include a 14% longer wingspan, increasing the number of solar cells to 17,000 from just less than 12,000.

According to Aviation Week the round-the-world flight attempt is planned to begin from somewhere in the Middle East so that the aircraft can cross India and China before the monsoon season starts. Solar Impulse co-founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will take turns flying the single-seat aircraft.