Bertrand Picard, a Swiss adventurer is set to unveil a prototype of solar-powered plane, hoping it would eventually fly around the world. The initial version spans 61 m, but weighs only 1500 kg. The plane would undergo trials to prove its ability to fly at night. Picard made history in 1999 when he circled the globe non-stop in a balloon. He intends to exhibit the power of renewable energies.
He expects to cross Atlantic by 2012. The flight would be a risky venture. Solar and battery technology has matured only recently and aerial journey has sustained only in unmanned aircrafts. The HB-SIA looks like a glider, but in terms of its width is a modern aircraft. The plane uses composite materials to keep it very light and employs super-efficient solar cells, batteries, propellers, and motors to pull itself through during dark.
Picard will begin testing with short runway where the plane lifts only a few metres into the air. As the confidence sets in, the move will be made for day-night cycle. This has not happened before in a manned solar-powered plane. It is likely that Picard would take the route around the globe close to the route he took in the Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon. The plane has the ability to fly non-stop around the globe. But it would be difficult for the pilot to handle the plane non-stop.
Picard said that if the plane is flown at 25 knots, it would take 20-25 days to go around the world. The plane would be unveiled on Friday at Dubendorf airfield near Zurich, Switzerland.