The solar powered Impulse HB-SIA has successfully completed its maiden voyage over a picturesque Swiss airfield.
Test pilot Markus Scherdel spent most of the 87 minute flight familiarizing himself with the prototype’s “behavior” and “controllability” at a top altitude of 1200 meters before making the first landing on the Vaudois tarmac.
“This first flight was for me a very intense moment,” Scherdel said as he stepped down from the aircraft.
“The HB-SIA behaved just as the flight simulator told us! Despite its immense size and feather weight, the aircraft’s controllability matches our expectations!”
However, Solar Impulse Chairman Bertrand Piccard acknowledged that the solar powered plane still had a “long way to go” until it was capable of flying at night and an even “longer way” before it could successfully navigate around the world.
“But today, thanks to the extraordinary work of an entire team, an essential step towards achieving our vision has been taken,” explained Piccard.
“Our future depends on our ability to convert rapidly to the use of renewable energies. Solar Impulse is intended to demonstrate what can be done already today by using these energies and applying new technologies that can save natural resources.”
The Impulse – which was constructed over the course of six years – is powered by 12,000 solar cells, 880 pounds of lithium batteries and four 10-horsepower electric motors. The plane is eventually expected to attain an average flying speed of 70 kms per hour and achieve a maximum altitude of 8,500 meters, or 27,900 feet.