It may sound as useful as a solar-powered torch, but an aircraft fuelled by the sun has accomplished its first ever manned night flight. The aircraft, built by Swiss company Solar Impulse, also broke the records for highest altitude and longest duration for a piloted solar flight.
The craft took off at 6:51 local time yesterday morning from the Payerne airbase in Switzerland. André Borschberg, one of the cofounders of the project and the craft’s sole pilot, guided its gradual ascent during the day.
Its power was collected by 12,000 solar panels built into its 63-metre wingspan. During the hours of bright sun, batteries siphoned off some energy to power the plane through the night. Solar impulse has a top speed of 44 miles per hour.