Solar Plane Aiming For Round-The-World Flight Makes Maiden Flight

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A solar-powered plane that aims for the First Round-The-World Solar Flight in 2015 has made its maiden flight on Monday.

The revolutionary airplane -- Solar Impulse 2 - had a two hour flight after taking off from Payerne airfield in Switzerland.

Test pilot Markus Scherdel was in the cockpit, which can accommodate only one pilot.

Solar Impulse 2 will conduct a full test program this summer over Switzerland.

It is a larger, upgraded version of the Solar Impulse 1 aircraft that made a 26-hour historic trans-America flight last year. For the first time in history, an airplane succeeded in flying night and day without fuel, powered by solar energy.

Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar-powered aircraft project developed at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

Solar Impulse is the only airplane of perpetual endurance, able to fly day and night on solar power, without a drop of fuel.

Solar Impulse intends to achieve the first Round-The-World Solar Flight in 2015, after 12 years of research, tests and development.

Despite having a wingspan that is wider than a Boeing 747 jet, the carbon-fiber aircraft weighs only 2.3 tons.

Thousands of solar cells fitted on top of the plane's wings will recharge lithium batteries, which will supply the energy to drive four electric motors.

The project's pioneers -- Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard and Swiss businessman André Borschberg - will be at the controls of the Solar Impulse HB-SIB, when it makes first circumnavigation of the Earth, scheduled for next year.

Piccard and Borschberg say they "do not plan to revolutionize the aviation industry but instead to demonstrate that the actual alternative energy sources and new technologies can achieve what some consider impossible. "

Solar Impulse wants to mobilize public enthusiasm in favor of technologies that will allow less dependence on fossil fuels, and encourage use of renewable energies.

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