Adventurer to Ride Photovoltaic (PV) cells Across the Heavens in 2012

Recently I blogged about PlanetSolar, the boat that will use a whole lot of photovoltaic (PV) cells to make a round-the-world trip by sea in 2010.

Now I'm reading over at about adventurer Bertrand Piccard, famous for having made the first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight, and how he intends to fly a solar-powered plane around the world in 36 hours, thanks to 11,628 photovoltaic cells (10,748 on the wing, 880 on the horizontal stabilizer).

Image credit: BBC

Notably, the efficiency of the PV cells used on both PlanetSolar and Piccard's HB-SIA prototype will be 22%.

According to a download available at Piccard's site, the prototype has the wingspan of an Airbus A340, the weight of a family car, and the power of a scooter.

The project, SolarImpulse, just unveiled the HB-SIA solar aircraft, a prototype 6 years in the making, that Piccard will use for test flights leading up to 2012 and a round-the-world solo flight, one that will "retrace, using solar energy, some of the great firsts in the history of flight."

I love historically-infused copy like that.

HB-SIA Specs:
Power: 4x10 hp electric engines
Average speed: 44 mph (70 km/h)
Max altitude: 27,900 ft (8500 m)
Weight: 3,527 lbs (1600 kg)
Take-off speed: 22 mph (35 km/h)

For more info on this project, check out their informative set of FAQ's.


This site follows the emergence, application and development of transportation innovation. Reference to manufacturers, makes and models, and other automotive-related businesses are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by