07 Jul 2010 05:07:14
Solar aircraft attempting 24-hour flight
A test is currently underway to establish the viability of a plane which runs solely on solar power.
The aircraft took off from an airfield in Switzerland at 7am local time on Wednesday July 7th and will be attempting to fly non-stop for 24 hours.
Created by Solar Impulse, the manned plane is manufactured from carbon fibre and has a wingspan of 61 metres, which is covered with solar panels.
On-board computers have been installed to minimise energy consumption and four batteries have been fitted to store energy so the plane can fly at night.
Plans are for the plane to travel to 27,900ft during daylight, before making a slow descent using the stored battery power overnight.
If tests are successful Solar Impulse plans in the future to carry out a flight over the Atlantic followed by an around-the-world test.
The team said: "The big question is whether the pilot can make efficient use of the battery energy to fly throughout the night. If this mission is successful, it will be the longest and highest flight ever made by a solar plane."
In the UK, the government hopes that 20 per cent of the emissions cuts made each year until 2020 will be due to efficiencies within the transport sector.