A solar-powered plane has completed the first leg of a journey towards Morocco, landing in Madrid for a three-day stopover after completing a 17-hour flight without using traditional fuel.
Solar Impulse's aircraft has a wingspan equal to that of an Airbus A340 airliner. Credit: Ben Woods
The plane has solar panels on its wings and other parts of its exterior, and these provide the energy for its operation.
"The flight went very well, and thanks to the team of meteorologists, everything went according to the plan: it was extraordinary," Andre Borschberg, the pilot of the Solar Impulse aircraft, said in a statement on Friday.
"It was incredible to fly alongside the barrier of clouds during most of the flight and not need to hesitate to fly above them. This confirms our confidence in the capacity of solar energy even further," he added.
The next leg of the 1,550-mile journey is set to get underway on Monday.
The plane has a wingspan of around 210 feet, roughly equal to that of an Airbus A340 airliner, and averaged 89km/h on its first leg of the journey. Its highest altitude during the flight was 27,000 feet.
Powering the aircraft are four brushless, sensorless electric engines, which each develop 10hp. They are powered by 11,628 monocrystalline silicon solar cells, mostly sited on the plane's wings.
"By writing the next pages in aviation history with solar energy, and voyaging around the world without fuel or pollution, Solar Impulse's ambition is for the world of exploration and innovation to contribute to the cause of renewable energies, to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies for sustainable development; and to place dreams and emotions back at the heart of scientific adventure," the project's team said on its web page.