News / Science & Technology

Solar Plane Soars from Europe to Africa

Bertrand Piccard, pilot of the Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse prepares the craft for take off at the Barajas airport in Madrid, June 5, 2012.
Bertrand Piccard, pilot of the Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse prepares the craft for take off at the Barajas airport in Madrid, June 5, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
A Swiss adventurer is flying an experimental solar-powered plane from southern Europe toward northern Africa in a bid to complete the world's first inter-continental flight by an aircraft without using fuel.

Bertrand Piccard took off from the Spanish capital Madrid, early Tuesday aboard the Solar Impulse plane on an 830 kilometer journey to the Moroccan capital, Rabat. Several hours later he was nearing Spain's southern coast while cruising at an altitude of 3,600 meters. After crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, the plane is due to enter Moroccan airspace over Tangiers and land at Rabat's airport after 9 pm local time (2200 UTC).

Solar Impulse has a huge 63-meter wingspan covered by 12,000 solar cells connected to a set of electrical motors that power the single-pilot aircraft. Despite its size, the plane weighs only about as much as an average family car.

Speaking to VOA as he flew over Spain, Piccard said his goal is to try to change public perceptions about renewable energy sources, showing that they can be used not just for airplanes, but also on the ground to power cars and home appliances such as air conditioners.

Organizers picked Morocco as the flight's destination to highlight the North African nation's plan to build the world's biggest solar power plant. Piccard said the solar power plant will help Morocco to create jobs and become more independent from fossil fuels. He said many other nations can boost their purchasing power and wealth by following Morocco's example.

Solar Impulse's flight from Madrid to Rabat also is a trial run for a much longer round-the-world flight scheduled in 2014. Piccard said his team is preparing for that attempt by building a second, larger plane with water-tight wings that can fly in rainy conditions for five to six days in a row without landing.

The team's current aircraft made history in 2010 as the first manned plane to fly for 24 hours using only the sun's energy.

Internet users can follow the flight's progress with live images from an on-board camera at solarimpulse.com.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.


Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid