The Solar Impulse plane is taking solar innovation to new heights. The ultra-lightweight, yet enormous (wingspan equal to an Airbus 340, at over 200 feet wide) plane is designed to run on its own solar power.
Three years ago, the plane successfully flew from day to night without fuel, and this summer they are up for another challenge-to fly the plane over the entire U.S. These journeys are possible because of the lightweight frame and capacity to generate energy. To make the frame as lightweight as possible, the structure has carbon fiber components and flight instrumentation, which can be powered by the 200 square meters of solar panels that cover the plane.
While the idea of a solar-powered airline industry may seem distant, the Solar Impulse team hopes that the plane will challenge what was once considered impossible, much like other scientific advancements.