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Solar Impulse is a single-seat plane. This morning (May 13) it took off from Switzerland and is heading for Brussels, Belgium. It travels at less than 50 miles-per-hour, it has the wing span of a Boeing 777 and the power of a small motorcycle. Most significantly it is solar powered.
In a major step to the ultimate goal – a round-the-world flight without fuel. Outfitted by solar panels that will power it during the day; the unique part is that the plane also stores energy in batteries to run it at night. It will need not only good winds but almost no clouds.
“Flying an aircraft like Solar Impulse through European airspace to land at an international airport is an incredible challenge for all of us,” said co-founder and co-pilot André Borschberg on the project website.
Two men, both pioneers and innovators, both pilots, are the driving force behind Solar Impulse. Bertrand Piccard, psychiatrist and aeronaut, who made the first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight, is the initiator and chairman. André Borschberg, an engineer and graduate in management science, a fighter pilot and a professional airplane and helicopter pilot, is the CEO. The former’s avant-gardist vision and the latter’s entrepreneurial and managerial experience are an ideal combination.