A prototype solar-powered aircraft - HB-SIA - landed safely and successfully at Madrid's Barajas Airport last week, completing the first leg of its first intercontinental long haul flight. The aircraft has been developed by Switzerland-based Solar.
The plane was piloted by Solar Impulse's co-founder André Borschberg and the solar-powered aircraft's flight lasted for a total of 17 hours, 30 minutes and 50 seconds.
The aircraft took off from Payerne in Switzerland on 24 May and flew over the Massif Central towards the city of Toulouse (France), flying over the Pyrenees mountain range at an altitude of 7,833 meters and finally arriving in Spain on 25 May, according to an official release from the team behind the Swiss solar-powered plane project.
According to the makers of the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, the aircraft is the first airplane designed to fly day and night without requiring fuel and without producing carbon emissions.
The "evolutionary carbon fiber airplane", as its makers term it, has 12,000 solar cells integrated into its wing. These supply the four electric motors (maximum power output of 10CV each) with renewable energy and charge the 400kg lithium polymer batteries during the day, enabling the aircraft to fly at night. The Solar Impulse HB-SIA has a 63.4m wide wingspan, which is as wide as that of an Airbus A340. Its weight, however, is no more than an average family car.
The aircraft is being taken on its first intercontinental flight to raise awareness about the potential of harnessing solar energy and minimise global dependence on petrol.
"It was incredible to fly alongside the barrier of clouds during most of the flight and not need to hesitate to fly above them. This confirms our confidence in the capacity of solar energy even further," Borschberg said in a statement.
On its second leg, the Solar Impulse aircraft will be piloted by Bertrand Piccard, who will complete an approximately 800km flight over the Gibraltar Strait and the Mediterranean, landing in Morocco's Rabat-Salé Airport, after about 20 hours.
Through these intercontinental flights, the Solar Impulse team is readying up for a round-the-world flight powered by only solar energy and no fuel in 2014.
Click on Start to check out some of the amazing pictures from the fight mission of Solar Impulse HB-SIA in the slideshow...