French firm hopes to fly first green plane round the world in 2008

Solar aircraft technology is advancing fast and the race to be the first to pilot a solar-powered plane around the world is on. French company Lisa Airplanes claims that it will be the first to send a green plane around the globe next summer. Its Hy-Bird is a hybrid plane powered by a mix of solar energy and hydrogen. Earlier this month, Switzerland’s Bertrand Picard unveiled his prototype for a solar-powered aircraft called Solar Impulse which he hopes will fly around the globe in 2011.

“The idea is to go round the world in a prototype of a clean plane,” Erick Herzberger of Lisa Planes told Le Monde. “With a double objective: to create an event around sustainable mobility and encourage funding to industrialize the plane.”

“Today, big aircraft firms are trying to make a plane with a hydrogen battery, but we are the only ones to combine the technologies,” said Benoît Senellart, engineer at Lisa Airplanes. The firm is working in partnership with the National Institute of Solar Energy (INES) and the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).

The plane’s body will be made from carbon fiber, with wingspace of 20 metres and a total weight of 1.1 ton. The wings will be equipped with photovoltaic cells and lithium-polymer batteries will be used to power take-off. The Hy-Bird is designed to reach a cruising speed of 150 kms an hour (compared with an average 920 kms an hour for a 747), permitting trips of up to 3000 kms. The inaugural round-the-world flight will be piloted by a series of different pilots, each one from the country of the next landing. The firm hopes that the plane can be put into circulation by 2012. Provisional budget for the first flight stands at four million euros, compared to the budget for Solar Impulse’s first test flight, estimated at 60 million euros.

via Le Monde

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