Almost one month after noting the triumphant flight of the Solar Impulse from Belgium to Switzerland, we’re somewhat disheartened to report that the solar powered craft has been unsuccessful in trying to complete a journey from Brussels to Paris on June 12th.
Pilot and CEO of the airplane company, André Borschberg, attributed poor weather conditions as the reason he decided to turn back almost half-way through the flight to France. The strong head winds and greater than expected cloud cover, he said, depleted the airplane’s batteries, making it potentially unsafe to continue along the route to Paris.
The solar airplane was in the air for just over five hours at an average altitude of 3,000 feet and speed of 40km/h (22 knots), traveling roughly 130 miles before having to return to Brussels. Still, the company remains optimistic, noting that the plane is an experimental craft that will likely have future setbacks as they continue to test performance.
Although we’ve reported on a solar plane that stayed aloft for two weeks, and a spy project for the U.S. government that looks to be in the air for five years, the Solar Impulse is one of the first manned solar airplanes, exponentially increasing logistical problems. While wide-scale solar flight is still years away, we recently noted that NASA is spending $16.5 million on green aircraft technology. As well, Solar Impulse’s founders say the ultimate goal of their project is to travel around the world using only the sun and an electric motor similar to those found on small motorcycles.