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Aviation solar powered airplane

Published on June 6th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Solar Impulse Completes World Record Flight from Spain to Morocco

June 6th, 2012 by  

solar powered airplane

As I noted back in March, the Solar Impulse, a 100% solar-powered plane that likes to set world records a few times a year, was aiming for another one this week — 2,500 km (1,550 miles). It completed this trip yesterday to indeed set the record.

This is actually just a stepping stone to a full around-the-world journey the Swiss plane is scheduled to perform in 2014.



“The Swiss solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse, touched down to a warm welcome in Rabat, Morocco last night, flying from Madrid and successfully completing the second leg of its record-breaking 2,500-kilometer intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco,” a news release just published moments ago announced.

Solar Impulse flying over Europe towards Morocco.

“Mustapha Bakkoury, President, Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, (MASEN), joined in welcoming pilot Bertrand Piccard, who called the flight over the Strait of Gibraltar ‘a magical moment’ and noted that Solar Impulse made the trip ‘without one drop of fossil fuel.’ In Morocco, the Solar Impulse team will join events highlighting the convergence and capacity of renewable energy technologies, particularly solar power, under the patronage of King Mohammed VI and at the invitation of MASEN, which oversees Morocco’s solar energy development.

“The solar-powered flight coincides with construction launch in southern Morocco of the world’s largest solar thermal plant, a World Bank-financed project commencing in Ouarzazate that will harness the Sahara sun to produce 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy for North Africa and Europe and create jobs for many in the area.  Ouarzazate is the solar plane’s next destination, after a five-day stopover in Rabat.”

A big congrats to the Solar Impulse team, the blooming solar industry, and Morocco. Solar-powered planes aren’t going to rule the sky any time soon, but this is just another landmark on the solar power’s exciting journey forwards, and the aviation sector’s journey forward as well. I don’t think anyone envisioned how far we’d come in about 100 years when the Wright brothers made their landmark flight in 1903.

For more on the Solar Impulse’s journey to this new record, check out:

  1. The Solar Powered Plane : It Flies!
  2. Solar-Powered Plane Completes 1st 24-Hour Flight
  3. Solar Plane — Solar Impulse — Completes 1st International Flight
  4. Solar Impulse (Solar Plane) Ready in 2014?

Source: Morocco on the Move
Image Credits: Solar Impulse/Stéphane Gros & Solar Impulse 

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About the Author

Zach is tryin’ to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he’s also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada.

Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don’t jump to conclusions.

  • Conrad Clement

    About 20 years ago, James Mc Cready, the American gliding world champion and winner of the Kremer price, built a purely solar aircraft (without batteries) with a wing span small enough for practical use — this aircraft took off from Paris Le Bourget, climbed to 3000 metres, crossed the Channel an landed five hours later on the British coast.

    Years later, in an interview to the AeroRevue, Bertrand Piccard, the father of SolarImpulse, had the cheek to announce that he was going to build the first manned solar aircraft…

    Noticing that the first and still biggest sponsor of SolarImpulse is Deutsche Bank with its 20 million CHF contribution, the Swiss PlanetSolar boat just back from its world tour in Monaco comes to our mind with its sole sponsor, a German psychiatrist, who put 25 million euros on the table to save the project after it got stuck in Switzerland with no more home support than SolarImpulse — because there is a complete ban of PV in my country.

    The underlying message of SolarImpulse is: “Ladies and Gentlemen, as you can see, if you want to fly solar, you need an aircraft of such huge dimensions that you’d better forget about the idea of ever flying your personal solar aircraft. By the way, Piccard himself never has, and never will, speak of SolarImpulse as an aircraft project, but only as a promotion platform for PV.

    Like PV solar technology, ultralight motorized aircraft (ULMs) and helicopters are banned from my country which, together with North Korea, stands alone worldwide in maintaining prohibition of these aircraft of the future…

    • interesting history. unfortunately, i’m not finding anything on James Mc Cready (or James McCready) in a google search.

      and what is your country?

    • i’m finding this on wikipedia:

      Solar Riser

      The world’s first official flight in a solar powered, man carrying aircraft took place on April 29, 1979. The Mauro Solar Riser was
      built by Larry Mauro and
      was based on the UFM Easy Riser biplane hang glider . The aircraft used photovoltaic cells that produced 350 watts at 30 volts, which charged a Hughes 500 helicopter battery, which in turn powered the electric motor. The aircraft was capable of powering the motor for 3 to 5 minutes, following a 1.5-hour charge, enabling it to reach a gliding altitude

      Solar One

      The Solar-Powered Aircraft Developments Solar One was
      designed by David Williams under the direction of Freddie To, an architect and member of the Kremer prize
      and produced by Solar-Powered Aircraft
      A motor-glider type aircraft originally built as a pedal powered airplane
      to attempt the Channel crossing, the airplane proved too heavy to be
      successfully powered by human power and was then converted to solar power,
      an electric motor driven by batteries that were charged before flight by a
      solar cell array on the
      maiden flight of Solar One took place at Lasham Airfield; Hampshire on June
      13, 1979, one day after Brian Allen had successfully pedalled the Gossamer
      Albatross across the English
      ]Gossamer Penguin and Solar Challenger

      The Gossamer Penguin , a
      smaller version of the human powered Gossamer
      Albatross was
      completely solar powered. A second prototype, the Solar
      flew 262 km (163 mi) from Paris to
      7 July 1981, the aircraft, under solar-power, flew 163 miles from
      Cormeilles-en-Vexin Airport near Paris
      the English Channel to RAF
      Manston near
      flying for 5:23. Designed by Dr. Paul
      MacCready the
      Solar Challenger set an altitude record of 14,300 feet.


      In 1990 the solar powered airplane *Sunseeker* successfully flew across the
      USA, piloted by Eric Raymond
      .[22] It used
      a small battery charged by solar cells on the wing to drive a
      propeller for
      takeoff, and then flew on direct solar power and took advantage of soaring
      conditions when

      The *Sunseeker II*, built in 2002, was updated in 2005-2006 with a more
      powerful motor, larger wing, lithium battery packs and updated control
      of Dec, 2008 it was the only manned solar powered airplane in flying
      condition and is operated regularly by Solar
      2009 it became the first solar-powered aircraft to cross the
      99 years after the first crossing of the Alps by an aircraft.

      Solar Impulse

      Main article: Solar Impulse

      The first short-hop (350m) test flight of the Solar
      Impulse prototype
      was made on 3 December

      In its present configuration it has a wingspan of 210 ft (64 m), weighs
      3,500 lb (1,588 kg) and is powered by four 10-horsepower (7 kW) electric
      motors. The aircraft has over 11,000 solar cells on its wings and
      horizontal stabilizer. Power from the solar cells is stored in lithium
      polymer batteries and used to drive 3.5-metre (11 ft) propellers turning at
      a speed of 200–400 rpm. Take-off speed is 19 knots (35 km/h) and cruising
      speed is 60 kn (111

      The aircraft had its first high flight on 7 April 2010, when it flew to an
      altitude of 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) in a 1.5-hour flight on battery power
      alone. The Solar Impulse team is planning to use the aircraft to
      circumnavigate the globe in

      The aircraft first flew on purely solar power, charging its batteries in
      flight, on 28 May

      On 8 July 2010 it completed the first manned 24-hour flight completely
      powered by solar
      [39] [40]

      On 5 June 2012, the Solar Impulse successfully completed an
      intercontinental flight, the first-ever by a solar plane, flying a 19-hour
      trip from Madrid , Spain, to

      • looks like wikipedia’s links don’t come through well here, sorry.

  • Captivation

    I’m a bit surprised by the shape of the plane. Being solar powered, I would have thought they would aim for something with maximum surface area – more like a hand glider. I realize that surface area might introduce more drag, but in this particular case, I’d have thought the power benefits would outweigh almost everything else.

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