A revolutionary solar-powered plane, designed to fly round the clock without traditional aviation fuel, has successfully flown through the night.
The aptly-named Solar Impulse flew during the day, topping up its batteries with natural sunlight above European skies.
For pilot Andre Borschberg, it was clear that the big test would come when the sun went down.
“Then Andre will have to switch on the engines at a higher rpm in order to stay flat, on level flight, and this level flight has to last until sunrise,” said the project’s co founder Bertrand Piccard earlier. “So here there will be the suspense: will the airplane be saving enough energy in order to make it through the night?”
The carbon-fibre plane weighs about the same as a medium-sized car. It is powered by four electric motors and is designed to save energy from 12,000 solar cells built into its wings.
It has been in development for six years, resulting in this prototype for an aircraft that its creators hope will carry out its first circumnavigation of the globe in 2012.