Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 12:28 UK

Solar plane prototype in first test flight


Watch the plane taking off

A prototype solar-powered plane has made its first full test flight - coming closer to the goal of using solar energy to fly around the world.

The Solar Impulse, with a wingspan similar to that of a super-jumbo jet but weighing the same as a saloon car, took off from a Swiss airfield.

The plane's wings are covered by solar cells which power four electric motors.

Its designers hope a slightly larger production model will circumnavigate the globe in two years' time.

The test flight was intended to verify that the plane's behaviour tallied with simulations.

"With such a large and light plane never having flown before, the aircraft's flight behaviour remains unexplored," the flight team said in a statement.

Round-the-world balloonist Bertrand Piccard is leading the project and intends to pilot the plane along with co-founder Andre Borschberg.

"It's a very important moment after seven years of work," said Mr Borschberg before the take-off.

Witnesses said both take-off and landing seemed to go smoothly.

The flight team have been conducting flea-hop tests since December, taking the plane no higher than 60cm (2ft) in altitude and 300m in distance.

A night flight is planned later this year, and then a new plane will be built based on the results of those tests.

The big take-off is planned for 2012, when the two pilots will try a transatlantic flight before attempting to circumnavigate the globe.

Print Sponsor

Record solar plane's first 'hop'
03 Dec 09 |  Science & Environment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific