Considering the massive carbon emissions that come from burning jet fuel, air travel is in serious need of a green makeover. To that end, the folks over at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, have been working on a solar-powered plane since 2003. Now, after six years of testing, they have finally managed to get the plane off the ground.
The flight wouldn’t exactly impress Lindbergh, as the plane only lifted a yard off the ground for a 1,148 foot trip. In fact, due to the short nature of the flight, the engineers nicknamed the test “the flea hop”. However, it is the first takeoff by a solar-powered plane carrying a pilot ever in history, and the plane behaved just as engineers predicted in their models.
The plane carries only one person, but has a wingspan of almost 200 feet. And despite that long wing length, the whole craft only weighs 3,527 pounds.
This test is the first in a serious of flights building up to a 2011 trans-Atlantic flight. Eventually, the engineers hope to circumnavigate the globe over the course of 25 days. Not quite Chuck Yaeger speed there, but not bad, considering the vehicle’s powered entirely by the sun.