It’s green, it’s cool — and as yet still in the works. But aeronautical engineers in this Swiss town are excited about a solar-powered plane that would fly day and night.
The scientists have developed the prototype of this “strange” aeroplane. A 36-hour day and night flight is planned for mid -2010 and a more refined one by 2012.
“At this moment I don’t want to make any tall claims. I don’t know what will happen to aviation 20 years after but aviation will be totally different,” Bertrand Piccard, the main visionary enginner behind this ambitious project, told Hindustan Times.
“Aeroplanes are most difficult to fly using solar energy but I’m hopeful that the airline industry will use more clear fuel. It is a symbol of change,” he added.
The $100-million (Rs. 460-crore) project, pursued in the backdrop of climate change talks to cut down ecologically harmful carbon emissions, is backed by the International Air Transport Association.
This unusual aircraft did its first flight, flying one meter above the runaway for 300 metres at Dubendorf military base near Zurich in Switzerland earlier this month.
The plane has an unusually lengthy wing span (63.4 metres, like an Airbus A-340), weighs a sedan-like 1,600 kg and sports scooter-type electric engines.
In the day time it will fly to an altitude of 8,000 metres, absorb solar energy and come down to 1,000 metres at night to use less power.
It will fly with a speed 70 km per hour.