Fuel-Free Aircraft Will Launch in 2018

Saturday, December 10, 2016 - 16:12

Swiss engineers have officially unveiled a plane that they claim is the first solar-powered craft to break through the stratosphere and is capable of reaching the edge of space using solar power alone.

The SolarStratos, which has already successfully flown around the globe, can fly at an altitude of over 82,000 feet using only the sun's energy and can remain airborne for more than 24 hours, Mail Online reports.

SolarStratos wants its 8.5 meter-long aircraft to be the first manned, solar-powered plane to penetrate the stratosphere, the outer fringes of the atmosphere that separates the sky from space. The two-seater plane has a wingspan of 24.8 meters and is covered in 22 square meters of solar panels, which harness sunlight to power the craft's electric engine.

“Our goal is to demonstrate that current technology offers us the possibility to achieve above and beyond what fossil fuels offer,” said Raphael Domjan, creator of PlanetSolar, following the plane's official unveiling in Payerne, Switzerland.

"Electric and solar vehicles are amongst the major challenges of the 21st century. Our aircraft can fly at an altitude of 25,000 meters and this opens the door to the possibility of electric and solar commercial aviation, close to space," he added.

The plane is just 28 feet (8.5 meters) long and runs on a 32-kW electric engine and 20 kWh lithium-ion battery, charged by the craft's 72 square feet (22 square meter) solar cells, which cover each wing.

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