The Solar Impulse is a Swiss aircraft designed to fly without fuel using only batteries and solar energy. Although there have been long distance and human powered airplanes before, this will be the first purely solar powered aircraft. It just completed it’s first real flight using pre-charged batteries so the concept is becoming reality. Someday, aircraft like this one will be able to remain continuously airborne and operated remotely. The age of remotely piloted aircraft is here thanks to advances in electronics. In the future, remotely piloted aircraft, spacecraft, ships, etc. will become the norm I expect as each succeeding generation becomes more comfortable with the technology.
In terms of design, the Solar Impulse has the immense wingspan found on gliders and other long distance aircraft like Burt Rutan’s Voyager. But the rest of the airplane is unique with it’s box-like fuselage section and dramatic vertical over and under rudder. It almost looks more like a spacecraft designed for inter-planetary travel if it weren’t for the scale. For more information about the Solar Impulse, go to www.solarimpulse.com.