Solar Aircraft Flies

The first successful flight of an aircraft powered by the sun was completed in Switzerland yesterday as the Solar Impulse HB-SIA took off and landed safely. Solar Impulse founder Bertrand Piccard had dreamed of the day his plane would take flight for a decade.

With a good weather window on Thursday, test pilot Markus Scherdel was given the go ahead to take the spindly aircraft to up to take-off speed shortly after one o’clock local time. With the airplane lined up on the runway, Scherdel powered up the four motors using the on-board batteries and HB-SIA gained speed until he was able to lift off the pavement.

In a flight very reminiscent of the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903, Scherdel flew 350 meters down the runway at an altitude of only one meter in a flight lasting 28 seconds.

The team hopes to achieve a 36-hour flight by next summer. Link to story. Link to website. -via the Presurfer

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I don't think that this is the first aircraft powered by the sun.
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The piloted solar-powered Gossamer Penguin flew for 1.95 miles at a public demonstration on 7 Aug 1980.
Steve Ptacek piloted the Solar Challenger in its first flight on Nov. 20, 1980, then he flew it across the English Channel 7 July 1981.
Both aircraft were designed by Dr. Paul MacCready.
I think the actual first piloted solar test flight was piloted by his 13-year-old son.

Isn't using batteries for takeoff cheating?
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Very cool.

This isn't the first solar powered aircraft to fly, though.

It might be the first manned solar powered flight. All the ones I've heard of before have been unmanned. ut the linked article doesn't make that clear.
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