Solar Planes

Flying around the world powered only by the sun - no need to refuel

An unmanned "sunship", or solar powered air ship, ushered in the age of solar powered flying machines in 1974. By 1980, a plane called the Gossamer Penguin, made the first piloted flights powered only by the sun using photovoltaic panels. In July 1981, a plane called the Solar Challenger, which seemed even more airworthy, made a voyage across the English Channel.

Since then, the focus has turned more to the unmanned plane and has been aimed more at speed and dependability. The Helios set an altitude record for a non-rocket propelled plane at 29,524 meters (96,860 ft.) in 2001. There is a plane called the Zephyr, which is the latest in record-breaking technology. It made a 54-hour nonstop flight in 2007 and is expected to make a month long flight by the year 2010.



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