The plane which is constructed to be powered only by the sun has completed the first leg of a journey that aims to cross the US, as of May 4th! This aircraft is known as the Solar Impulse. It took off from San Francisco on Friday at dawn, and landed in Phoenix, Arizona approximately 18 hours later.
The Solar Impulse spent several hours flying in darkness, relying solely on the energy stored in an array of lithium-ion batteries to drive its propellers. In daylight hours, these are charged by nearly 12,000 solar cells that cover the craft’s wings and stabilizer. In the coming weeks, the vehicle is scheduled to stop over in Dallas, St. Louis, Washington DC, and New York.
The HB-SIA craft was piloted by Bertrand Piccard, a co-founder of the effort, who is perhaps best known for being the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon, in 1999. The trans-America bid is the first attempt of its kind with the zero-fuel aircraft. The current aircraft HB-SIA is effectively the prototype for the craft that will eventually be used for transoceanic flights and the round-the-world trip. The HB-SIB should be completed by the end of 2013. The launch on Friday served as the start of the founder’s Clean Generation Initiative, an effort to encourage policy-makers and businesses to develop and adopt sustainable energy technologies.
Source: Solar Impulse plane lands in Phoenix, BBC News, May 4, 2013