On December 17th, 1903 the Wright brothers revolutionized our world when they piloted their first powered flight that went up 20ft, lasted for 12 seconds and traveled a distance of 120ft. Now, almost 106 years later, two Swiss inventors have achieved a similar feat, with the successful maiden voyage of the world's first piloted solar-powered airplane - the Solar Impulse.
Rising just 3ft above the ground the plane managed to fly a distance of 1,150ft. in 30 seconds, before landing gracefully. While short, it was a huge achievement for inventors Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg - a giant step toward their ultimate goal of flying the plane around the world in 2012.
The 'Solar Impulse', which has a wingspan larger than that of a Boeing 747, but weighs only 3,500 pounds, is equipped with four electric motors and 890 lbs of re-chargeable lithium batteries, which will store the energy collected by the 12,000 ultra-thin film solar panels that will engulf the entire airplane.
While the test flights will be completely solar powered, this flight was powered by the electric motors, because it was largely to test if the plane can even take flight. Now that the airplane can be airborne, the duo plan on taking longer test flights,starting with an all night flight next year, as they prepare for their historic journey. To read more about this amazing aircraft and its inventors check out : www.solarimpulse.com.
sources:treehugger.com,redorbit.com, dailymail.co.uk, wired.com