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Renewable plane set for first flight
Thursday, 02 July 2009

The first 100% non-fossil fuelled aircraft has been unveiled in Zurich, Switzerland, and is scheduled to make its first test flights before the end of 2009.

With a wing span of 63.4 metres ? equivalent to that of a Boeing 747 ? the Solar Impulse HB-SIA is built around a carbon fibre-honeycomb composite sandwich structure.

The wings are encapsulated with over 12,000 150-micron thick solar cells which will supply renewable energy to the four electric motors with a maximum power of 10 HP each. During the day they will also charge the 400 kg lithium-polymer batteries, which will allow the HB-SIA to fly through the night.

Attaining a 63.4-metre wingspan with the necessary rigidity, lightness and flight controllability, and with just 1,600 kg take-off weight, is a challenge that has never before been met in aeronautics. The Solar Impulse is built around 120 carbon fibre ribs placed at 50cm intervals to give it its aerodynamic shape.