16 MAY 2011
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An aircraft solely powered by the sun made an international flight over the weekend in a publicity stunt to show the potential for pollution-free air travel. The Solar Impulse took off from Payerne in western Switzerland and landed at Brussels after a 13-hour flight. Geneva to Brussels International takes a little over one hour by scheduled jet.
"The objective is to demonstrate what we can do with existing technology in terms of renewable energy and energy savings," project co-founder and pilot Andre Borschberg said by telephone during the flight. He believes such solar-harnessing technology can be used to power cars and homes.
The Solar Impulse project began in 2003 with a 10-year budget of €90m and has involved engineers from Swiss lift maker Schindler and research aid from Belgian chemicals group Solvay.
The aeroplane, which requires 12,000 solar cells, embarked on its maiden sortie in April 2010 and three months later completed a 26-hour flight, a record flying time for a solar powered aircraft. A larger prototype is scheduled to fly around the world in 2013. The aircraft is registered HB-SIA. www.solarimpulse.com
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