Initial test flights of this unique solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse are in progress in the Payerne region of Switzerland. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is supporting this ambitious project and various DLR Institutes are involved in providing this support. In early 2010, DLR's Institute of Aeroelasticity (Institut fur Aeroelastik) ground vibration tests on prototypes in Zurich.
This is a task that requires the technology, design and construction of the aircraft to be of the highest standard. The aircraft needs a large wing surface area in order to generate sufficient lift. These wing surfaces also provide space for the solar cells, which power the four electric motors.
For Solar Impulse to continue its round-the-world flight after sunset, its batteries need to store sufficient solar power during the day to keep the propulsion units supplied with energy until sunrise. The exceptionally lightweight construction of this aircraft is key to its ability to save energy. Solar Impulse has the wingspan of an Airbus A340, but it is only as heavy as a mid-range passenger car.
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