Solar Impulse en route to Madrid.(Credit: Solar Impulse/Screenshot by Michelle Meyers/CNET)
Will solar powered airplanes soon revolutionize air travel? On Friday, May 25, 2012 the Swiss sun powered aircraft called Solar Impulse flew from Switzerland to its first stopover in Madrid as part of a 1,550 mile journey across the continent. The flight was completed without using one single drop of traditional airplane fuel.
The wingspan of the plane is more than 200 feet. The enormous wingspan provides for aerodynamic efficiency and houses the more than 12,000 solar panels that soak up the sunlight required to power the Solar Impulse during the day and charge its lithium polymer batteries to keep it aloft at night.
A round-the-world flight is being planned for 2014. Currently the average ground speed achieved by the plane is only 55.3 mph as the first leg of the intercontinental flight took more than 17 hours to complete.
Additional information can be found in the CNET article written by Michelle Myers entitled: Solar plane midway through first intercontinental flight.