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Solar-Powered Airplane Unveiled

Mary Grady

The Solar Impulse project, based in Switzerland, aims to build a solar-powered airplane capable of a round-the-world flight. In June, the team unveiled its first flying prototype, a lightweight single-seat aircraft with the wingspan of an Airbus--more than 200 feet. It carries more than 12,000 solar cells to charge a bank of batteries that power four electric motors. The prototype will begin flight tests this year, and the feedback from those experiments will be used to build a second aircraft, which will circumnavigate the world in 2012. Bertrand Piccard, who piloted the first round-the-world nonstop flight in a balloon, leads the project. The goal is to showcase the capabilities of alternative energy sources and encourage their use. (www.solarimpulse.com)

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