First 24-hour solar plane fright takes off

The first solar-powered plane has taken off for a 24-hour test flight today, with the pilots hoping to the Gods it’s a sunny day.

The plane has 12,000 solar cells on its 80-metre wingspan and looks like something out of a science-fiction movie.

It took off at 7am from the Payerne airfield in Switzerland, with pilot Andre Borschberg planning to take it up to an altitude of 8,500 metres throughout the evening. 

If all goes well he will continue to fly the plane through the pitch of night with just the power stored in the rechargeable solar-powered batteries.

An attempt at a 24-hour test flight was intended for last week, but a problem with the communications equipment resulted in the delay, reports The Globe and Mail.

The creators of the plane have an ambitious long-term goal of flying around the globe purely on solar energy.

“The goal of the project is to have a solar-powered plane flying day and night without fuel,” said Bertrand Piccard, co-founder of the Solar Impulse team and record-breaking balloonist. “This flight is crucial for the credibility of the project.”

With energy-efficiency becoming an increasingly important focus for governments and citizens around the globe, this flight is key in seeing how possible it is to make flights using only renewable energy. The Solar Impulse team said this is a long way off, but today’s test flight is the beginning of that process.