Back in April, we reported  on the Impulse HB-SIA , a solar-powered aircraft piloted by balloonist Bertrand Piccard. Powered by 11,628 monocrystalline silicon cells, and with a wingspan equivalent to an Airbus A340 (63.4 m), the HB-SIA is an impressive piece of work. Yesterday, the craft achieved an important milestone : the first solar-powered night flight.
Piloted by Andre Borschberg, the HB-SIA took off on 7/7  from Payerne air base in Switzerland at 07:51 local time. The craft reached a maximum altitude of 8,564 m and stayed aloft for a total of 26 hours and 9 minutes. About two hours before sunset, the HB-SIA switched to battery power in preparation for night flight.
Borschberg, a former Swiss air force pilot, was ecstatic, to say the least. “It was unbelievable, success better than we expected. We almost thought to make it longer,” he said.
The HB-SIA weighs a mere 1,600 kg and achieves energy conversion efficiency of 22%. The four 10 HP motors (located beneath the wings) propel the craft to an average speed of 70 km/h (44 mph). During Wednesday’s historic flight, the HB-SIA hit a max speed of 68 knots (ground speed), or 78.25 mph.
What’s next for Captain Piccard? The next milestone will be crossing the Atlantic, followed by a round-the-globe flight by 2012. The ultimate goal is to achieve “impossible things” with renewable energies.
“We are on the verge of the perpetual flight,” said Piccard.
Back in April, we reported on the Impulse HB-SIA, a solar-powered aircraft piloted by balloonist Bertrand Piccard. Powered by 11,628 monocrystalline silicon cells, the HB-SIA is an impressive piece of work. Yesterday, the craft achieved an important milestone: the first solar-powered night flight.