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Solar Impulse HB-SIA Takes Off

22 January 2010

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA, which is reported to be the first airplane designed to fly day and night without fuel, has successfully left the ground for the first time after its first test flight.

What makes the Solar Impulse HB-SIA different from many of the solar aircraft currently being designed for long periods of flight is that this will be a manned aeroplane. During the first test flight, pilot Markus Scherdel was able take the prototype up to its take-off speed, resulting in a sustained flight of 350 metres at an altitude of one meter.

In order to overcome the problem of a carrying a heavy payload, designers had to adapt several technologies, making the plane as energy-efficient as possible. By borrowing design principles used in gliders and using the latest composite and photovoltaic materials, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA looks set to achieve its goal of a sustained solar flight.

""On the one hand I find it terrific to see a dream come true. For over ten years now, I have dreamt of a solar aircraft capable of flying day and night without fuel, and promoting renewable energy. Today, our plane took off and was airborne for the very first time,” said Bertrand Piccard, President of Solar Impulse.

“This is an unbelievable and unforgettable moment. On the other hand, I remain humble in the face of the difficult journey still to be accomplished – it’s a long way between these initial tests and a circumnavigation of the world,” added Piccard.

""This is the culmination of six years of intense work by a very experienced team of professionals! This first ‘flea hop’ successfully completes the first phase of Solar Impulse, confirming our technical choices. We are now ready to start the next phase – the actual flight tests,"" said Andre Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse.

At this stage, the solar panels have not yet been connected. With the positive conclusion of this initial “flea hop”, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA will now be dismantled and transported to the airfield at Payerne.

From early 2010, the aircraft will make its first solar test flights, gradually increasing flight duration until it makes its first night flight using solar energy.





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