Solar Impulse Plane: A Rare Treat For Crowds in Paris

Category: Technology / Jun 15, 2011 11:46AM EDT
As it makes its slow decent to the runway at Le Bourget, in Paris, the Solar Impulse aircraft may not have wowed crowds with its speed. But for the spectators at the International Paris Air Show this was a rare treat. The aircraft is completely solar powered, and its makers say it can cope with bad weather because it stores energy. Twelve thousand solar cells integrated into the wing supply… along with four electric motors with renewable energy and charge lithium polymer batteries, allows the plane to fly at night. For the makers of the aircraft it signals the beginning of a new phase in aviation technology. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SOLAR IMPULSE FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN BERTRAND PICCARD: Now we are starting a new cycle again, it's a new cycle with zero fuel, and this really is important. So of course, the airplanes will make some evolution, it will not always stay so big, so light, so sensitive to the weather, but this is a first step, now we are showing that an airplane with zero fuel, just on solar power, can fly day and night with a pilot on board. With an average flying speed of just 70 km per hour, Solar Impulse is not going to threaten commercial jets just yet, but the makers hope the technology will revolutionize the industry. A larger prototype is scheduled to fly around the world in 2013.