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October 11, 2010

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Solar plane set for China visit

THE team behind the first solar-powered airplane to complete a night flight is planning a round-the-world flight within two years, with a stopover in China.

"We plan to stop in Hawaii, the United States, a European country, Japan and probably China - it is a country that cannot be ignored," said Bertrand Piccard, one of the project's founders and pilots, who visited Shanghai yesterday to find partners for the flight.

With a 63.4-meter wingspan and an average flying speed of 70 kilometers per hour, Solar Impulse is a revolutionary aircraft that can accomplish night and long-distance flight, powered only by solar and wind energy.

"If an aircraft is able to fly day and night, propelled only by solar energy, let no one claim that it is impossible to do the same thing for motor vehicles, heating systems and computers," Piccard said.

"This project voices our conviction that a pioneering spirit with political vision can bring about an end to fossil fuel dependency."

The project began six years ago, featuring the joint efforts of mechanical and electrical engineers, physicists, computer scientists and structural and material specialists from a number of countries.

The aircraft is 21.85 meters long, 6.4 meters high and weighs 1,600 kilograms. It has a total of 11,628 solar cells, 10,748 on the wing and 880 on the horizontal stabilizer.

It is built round a carbon fiber-honeycomb composite.

During its night flight in Switzerland in July, Solar Impulse climbed to an altitude of 8,500 meters.

"Technology can destroy the world but it can also save the world, depending on people's minds," said another pilot and founder Andre Borschberg.

"Meeting a challenge of this magnitude is possible only by taking maximum advantage of solar energy. Every watt counts, and we are looking to track down every way we can save energy," Borschberg said.


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