PAYERNE Bertrand Piccard’s and André Borschberg’s second solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse 2, successfully completed a two-hour maiden flight above La Broye on 2 June. This remarkable feat of engineering and ingenuity has captivated enthusiasts across the world — a suitable global acclaim considering the plane’s ability to reach far-off destinations without having to land. In fact, the one-man machine’s limit is human endurance. Its solar cells recharge batteries in daylight making uninterrupted flying possible, even at night when the aircraft’s energy source, the sun, is absent.
The true feat of this demonstration couldn’t have happened without a build-quality that has used pioneering technologies to ensure optimum performances. Despite a wing-span superior to that of a Boeing 747-8, the aircraft weighs a meagre 2,300 kg. Its four engines are powered by 17,000 solar cells, which are built into the wing and provide the energy necessary for different flight stages. The aircraft’s ultimate challenge, an around the world trip, is programmed for 2015. Until then, ten or so more tests will be carried out.