Last week I wrote about a solar powered boat completing its first round-the-world trip. While that seemed like a pretty extreme in-the-wild test at the time, this story puts it to shame.
Meet the solar powered plane. That’s right, a plane that stays in the air totally reliant on power soaked up from the sun’s rays. At least with a boat if you run out of juice you’d just float until the sun came out or a rescue ship arrived. This time around if you run out of power, you need a parachute. And that’s exactly what the pilots have as they test the plane’s endurance leading up to the ultimate goal of circumnavigating the globe. From engadget:
The sun-powered Solar Impulse plane is gradually working up to a trip around the globe, with the most recent benchmark being its first international flight in 2011. Now Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are taking the jumbo jet-size plane on its first transcontinental journey. The Solar Impulse set off for Morocco today, and its pilots will stop in Madrid along the way. The goal is to complete the 1,554-mile trip by next week, and the big challenge will be crossing cloudy regions like the Pyrenees mountains separating France and Spain. In a 2010 test flight, the Impulse’s 12,000 solar cells soaked up enough rays to keep the plane going through the night, but in case something goes wrong this time, the pilots are prepared with parachutes. If all goes well on this trial run, Piccard and Borschberg will be just one step away from their goal of circumnavigating the world in 2014.