An experimental solar powered light aircraft has made the first flight of the type at night, demonstrating its ability to continue flying on battery power for an extended period of time.
The Solar Impulse aircraft, which has a 64.3m span wing with 12,000 solar cells built into it and is powered by four electric motors, took off from Payerne in Switzerland on the morning of July 7. The aircraft was flown to charge up its batteries, allowing it to fly continuously for 26 hours, including during the night using power stored in the batteries. It then landed safely back at Payerne on the morning of June 8.
“It was unbelievable, success better than we expected,” pilot Andre Borschberg told Reuters. “We almost thought to make it longer, but we demonstrated what we wanted to demonstrate so they made me come back.”
The successful night flight is expected to open the way for Solar Impulse to undertake a trans-Atlantic flight, with the aim of later taking the aircraft on a round-the-world flight which would be completely powered by solar energy.