Solar Impulse airplane takes flight in '09, circumnavigates the globe next

Aeronaut Bertrand "Jean Luc" Piccard (nickname ours) has already been around the world once. The first time he did it in a hot air balloon, called the Breitling Orbiter 3. Now he wants to do it again with the Solar Impulse, which looks like a pretty good candidate to win the title of first solar aircraft to circumnavigate the globe.

Before it does the long haul, though, it'll tackle a short one. The Solar Impulse is scheduled for a test run toward the end of this year, with those involved planning a continuous two-day-long trip, which includes the night. It will be powered entirely by solar energy.

As for the aircraft itself, it's made out of carbon fiber materials, has a wingspan of about 200 feet, and it's covered with over 12,000 solar cells that power four individual 10-horsepower motors. Check out more of the Solar Impulse in the gallery below.





Solar Impulse, via Inhabitat