Swiss adventurer unveils ‘Solar Impulse’ - prototype for sun-powered plane

 Swiss adventurer unveils ‘Solar Impulse’ - prototype for sun-powered plane

Underlining the potential of alternative energy sources, the solar-powered plane 'Solar Impulse' (HB-SIA) unveiled by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard on Friday, is on its way to make history as the prototype for a flight 'fully powered' by the sun.

The first public peek at the plane came on Friday at a glitzy ceremony at a military airfield near Zurich, where Piccard and co-pilot Andre Borschberg unveiled it in the presence of several dignitaries, including Prince Albert of Monaco and the chief sponsors of the project.

With the wingspan of a Boeing 747, but weight lesser than a small car, the prototype is a propeller plane, which is powered by four electric motors. The plane is so designed that it can fly day and night, with the help of the surplus energy saved in the 24,000 solar cells of its high-performance batteries - without using even one ounce of fuel.

The 40 horsepower engines of the plane - which 51-year-old Piccard says will be "an ambassador of renewable energies" - will bring about a 'pedestrian pace' take-off at
22 mph, gradually accelerating to an average flight speed of 44 mph.

Entailing a project cost of euro70 million, the solar-powered plane will include a series of test flights over the next two-year period. With improvements resulting from the test flights, a fresh plane will be readied for a momentous take-off in 2012!